Should There Be Term Limits For Members of Congress?


The United States Congress was created by Article I of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution separated Congress into two chambers, the House of Representatives and the Senate. However, Article I did not limit House members nor Senators as to how many terms in office they could serve. Though the 22nd Amendment (1951) limits presidents to two four-year terms, no such constitutional limit exists at the congressional level.

By the end of the twentieth century, with reelection rates for incumbents at or above 90%, a movement began to place term limits on members of Congress. The Republican-controlled Congress initiated a proposed amendment in 1995 that would limit House members to six two-year terms, and Senators to two six-year terms. The proposal gained little steam, however, and was defeated in Congress. Proponents of term-limits argue that unlimited terms in office have transformed America into an oligarchy, where a few wealthy and powerful career-politicians dominate the government. Opponents claim that term-limits would deprive Congress of many of its most capable members, shift power to the president and limit the right of voters to choose whoever they want to represent them in Washington.

This case exemplifies the greater debate of the nature of participation in American democracy.  Should there be term limits for members of Congress?