Let’s begin with a question; why are members of Congress praised for being professional politicians? It’s certainly not related to their accomplishments; very few of our legislators will be remembered for their efforts to improve the life of most Americans. With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, Orrin Hatch, Republican Senator from Utah, has been given an honor by his party. Hatch has been given a ceremonial position. The majority party awards this position to the member of its party who has served the longest. Orrin Hatch has been lucky enough to be in Congress for 37 years. He is a perfect example as to why we must adopt term limits for Congress.
There is only a single duty Hatch will be charged with. When bills are passed by both houses, his signature will be the final addition before it reaches the President’s desk. A security detail has also been assigned to the 81-year-old Senator.
He becomes the ‘President Pro Tempore’ of the Senate, making him third in line for succession to the Presidency after the Vice-President and Speaker of the House.
What has Hatch accomplished in his 37 years? His most important work was achieved with the collaboration of Ted Kennedy. Although when he won his first election in 1976 partly by telling his supporters that he would fight liberal legislators, naming Kennedy, he and the late Senator became friends and worked together until Kennedy’s death.
The majority of Hatch’s ideologies follow the current party line. However, he is one of the few Republicans who has expressed concern for the gap between rich and poor.
What are his limitations? First of all, it’s age. I am no ‘spring chicken’ myself, but I recognize the limitations of my longevity on the planet. I can do anything I could do when I was 35-years-old, but not as often and not for as lengthy a period of time. Serving in the legislature of the United States is a constant battle in a war that is never to be won by either side. Term limits are mandatory.
With each new term in Congress comes increased power and wealth. The adage; ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is perfectly applied here. Do we want our representatives to be members of the wealthy class? That is a definite ‘no.’ They become less likely to serve the needs of the working class.
Lastly, politicians are far from honorable. Their sole purpose is winning election after election; they have no interest in representing the majority of the American people.
At present 15 states have adopted term limits for their legislators. My own state, Nevada, adopted a maximum of three terms. Eight of our nation’s largest cities have instituted term limits.
The most relevant reason for forcing Congress to accept term limits is the present situation in Washington. Although the President will leave office at the end of 2016, all too many members of Congress will remain.
Congress is the problem for gridlock. The proof is in the records of the 112th and 113th Congress’. Other than renewing previously passed laws, including the un-Constitutional Patriot Act, nothing was accomplished. The 114th appears to be following along with that same goal.
Although Republicans control both houses of Congress, without leadership nothing will be accomplished. If reasonable term limits were in effect, we would not be forced to accept John Boehner or Mitch McConnell as the leaders of the House and Senate; they have exhibited absolutely nothing in the form of leadership capability.
Allowed to be in office for six or eight terms is not praiseworthy. It simply points to the fact that voters cast their ballots out of habit, and not always for the most qualified candidate.
Congress will never present legislation to limit the time they are allowed to be in office; it’s up to the people.
Would you give up a job where your starting salary was $174,000 a year, with full benefits, and the requirement was that you simply ‘showed-up’ for work for a minimum of 100 days? To quote a line from a past television show; “I don’t think so, Tim.”
Commentary by James Turnage