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Smith: Term limits the only way to drain 'swamp'

By George Smith
Jan. 8, 2017 at 4 a.m.


When's the last time you heard a member of the House or Senate talk seriously by term limits? Well, actually it was last week.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, introduced a constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on members of Congress. The bill would limit senators to two terms (12 years) and representatives to three terms (six years).

In a prepared statement, Cotton said, "D. C. is broken… It is well past time to put an end to cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions." He could have - should have - added, "…and a swamp full of feed-me alligators."

One of the main planks in President-elect Donald Trump's platform was "reining in Congress" via term limits; a recent survey (October) found about 75 percent of Americans support term limits.

With Congress drastically divided on virtually every important issue, and and its various voting blocs literally in splinters, it is time - past time, actually - to work to fix the problem with Congress.

The United States Congress is a cabal of professional politicians that is interested in just one thing - to get its members re-elected.

That is evident by several simple facts:

1) After Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four consecutive terms, Congress, in 1947, passed the 22nd Amendment, which limited any president to two terms (eight years). The states ratified that amendment on Feb. 22, 1951, indicating that term limits for elected officials was a valuable tool in curtailing the possibility of unlimited power by the president.

The fact that Congress did not consider reigning in their own power by setting term limits for senators and representatives speaks volumes. What is good for the goose is not necessary good for the gander and other quacks.

2) Over the years, the House and Senate, through rule changes and legislation, created an uneven playing field in regard to securing - and keeping - Congressional members, once elected, in power until they were ready to retire to the hinterlands.

Looking at the situation rationally, the deck is stacked in favor of incumbents:

A) Term limits for members of Congress are seldom discussed;

B) Elected officials use franked mail (read "free") to constantly toot their own horn about heroic acts performed on behalf of constituents;

C) For members, a large chunk of many "working" days in Congress are spent in "boiler rooms" working the telephone and soliciting funds for the next run for re-election;

D) An incumbent is subsidized by tax dollars to visit their home districts or state, while opponents have to spend their own money or raised campaign funds for campaign activities;

E) Current congressmen have tax-paid staffs to do research and write speeches;

F) Many elected officials get free publicity by writing columns for district or state newspapers, a perk not normally extended to challengers;

G) Gerrymandering of districts makes it harder and harder for incumbents to gain a toehold in "arranged" districts, set up to ensure an incumbent's re-election; and

H) Every time an elected official shows up, television stations, newspapers and social media blogs and targeted sites show their smiling mug and cover their pabulum-laden pronouncements.

The only way to create an even field for would-be members of Congress is through term limits.

The first step is for Congress - and then the states - to past term limits for House and Senate members.

To do that, make your pleasure known by contacting the state's senators and individual district representatives and urge them to vote for term limits.

It is, apparently, the only way the "swamp" is going to be drained.

- George Smith is a former publisher of the Marshall News Messenger.

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