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RI’s Congressional Delegation Oppose Term Limits

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Despite a recent Gallup poll that shows that three out of four Americans support imposing term limits for members of Congress, a figure that is perhaps buoyed by that legislative branch’s 14-percent approval rating, Rhode Island’s four congressional delegate members are all opposed to the idea of an imposed limit, saying it would have a negative impact on the will of the state’s voters.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who won a second term last November by defeating Republican challenger Barry Hinckley, believes Rhode Island has benefitted by having experienced politicians in its congressional delegation.

"Rhode Island has a proud tradition of elected officials who have served our state well for many years,” said Seth Larson, a spokesman for Whitehouse. “Claiborne Pell served in the Senate for 36 years, John O. Pastore served for 26 years, and John Chafee served for 23 years. Senator Whitehouse believes that our state benefited from their long careers in public service, and does not believe we should force our Members of Congress to step down before the people of Rhode Island want them to."

At issue is a poll that shows many Americans are frustrated with the direction Congress is headed.

Earlier this week, US Senator Pat Toomey reintroduced a bill that would limit members of the house to a total of six years in office and restrict US Senators to two terms total, or 12 years.

With difficult, last-minute negotiations to stall the “fiscal-cliff”, public sparring over the debt ceiling limit and a still struggling economy both state and nationwide, many Americans feel their representatives in the legislative branch of government aren’t doing enough to chart a new direction for the country.

Yet, judging by this November’s election, those feelings may not be strong enough to elect new leaders.

One man who knows a thing or two about bucking approval rating numbers is Rhode Island’s District 1 Representative David Cicilline.

In February of last year, the former Providence mayor looked all but dead in his re-election bid as a Brown University poll showed just 14.8 percent of voters were happy with his job performance.

With his seat deemed winnable, Cicilline faced a tough primary challenge against businessman Anthony Gemma and, later, the former head of the State Police Brendan Doherty.

Cicilline fought back both opponents and managed to swing enough voters back to his side to earn a second term in office. It’s no surprise, then, that the Congressman prefers to put the power of electing leaders strictly into the hands of the people.

"In every election voters have the absolute right and final say over who will represent them,” Cicilline spokeman Richard Luchette said. “David believes that setting arbitrary term limits would deny voters this basic right."

Cicilline’s remarks mirror those of Rhode Island’s other Senator, Jack Reed, who’s in the midst of his third term in office after easily dispatching Republican challenger Robert Tingle in 2008.

"Senator Reed believes the power to vote on whether elected officials should continue their service in office is the right of every American citizen," said Reed’s press secretary Chip Unruh.

Perhaps the member of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation that would be most impacted is Representative Jim Langevin.

Currently on his seventh term in office after an easy victory over a pair of opponents in Republic Michael Riley and Independent candidate Abel Collins, Langevin’s stance on term limits is a bit unclear, although it does appear he would lean toward leaving the power in the hands of voters.

“While he prefers giving constituents the choice of whether to impose a term limit through the elections process, Congressman Langevin has said he would consider a law for term limits if proposed,” said Langevin spokesman Jonathan Dworkin.

If passed, Toomey’s bill would call for a constitutional amendment that would impose term limits on a nationwide basis, alleviating at least one of Langevin’s concerns.

“Recognizing the importance of seniority in the current system, it would have to be the same for everyone across the country and not done by a specific state, which would be put at a considerable disadvantage if it attempted to act on its own,” Dworkin explained.

How far Tooney’s bill gets remains to be seen, as does the debate over whether or not members of Congress should be limited in how long they are allowed to remain in office.

One thing is for sure, the latest poll figures show most Americans support the initiative … even if their elected representatives themselves disagree.


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6 years is enough, the conflicts become too much if longer.

Comment #1 by Gary Arnold on 2013 01 29

Amazing!!! I really thought they'd all be for it.

RI is a complete joke and should be split between CT and MA.

Comment #2 by pearl fanch on 2013 01 29

Anyone who thought these career politicians, who by the way have done nothing to stimulate the pathetic state of RHode Island, would be in favor of loosing all there special interest income is more delusional than all the go-local writers combined.

Voters and reporters should remember Rhode Island sends more tax dollars to Washington and receives little in return. That after all the job of our congressional delegation.

If we support term limits for the president than we must support term limits all around.

Comment #3 by shawna amitrano on 2013 01 29

cicilline won because of the master lever in a presidential election and his manipulation of the redistricting process to favor himself!!!

Comment #4 by anthony sionni on 2013 01 29

Our founding Fathers had issues regarding the same old rich people being elected to office. A perFect example would be Washington D.C. right now,it's not working with the same ole people. It's almost like a DAY CARE for rich people. Out with the Old in with the New is PROGRESS.It must be a good position if nobody wants to leave. We formed this Country because we were tired of the same old thing.

Comment #5 by THOMAS Murray on 2013 01 29

I found this on the internet, this says it all! I am for term limits!

Paraphrasing Lord Acton: Tenure corrupts; absolute tenure corrupts absolutely.

Without implying that every person who has held a particular electoral job for a long time becomes some kind of bad guy, Lord Acton's famous remark has a strong connection with reality, commonsense, and term limits.

For example, doesn’t it agree with your commonsense, and actual experience, that long tenured individuals generally, if not always, become a little jaded, indifferent, cynical, and arrogant, regarding the duties, responsibilities, and objectives of their job, after they've occupied it for a long time? That’s what we mean by 'corrupt' in connection with term limits. They no longer think in terms of the right thing to do, but rather the actions that will get them reelected, regardless of the general interest.

By contrast, a person in private industry must constantly strive to do the best he can for his employer in order to hold on to his job, or to earn raises in pay, or to advance to a better job.

An elected politician, on the other hand, needs only to stay 'acceptable' to his mostly indifferent constituents, maintain a suitable reelection fund (provided by special interests), and make it difficult for challengers to get on the ballot to run against him.

In the absence of an overriding issue, too many voters routinely vote for an unobjectionable incumbent, and/or name recognition , allowing him/her to get reelected again, and again, and again. That's why we need a mechanical end to never-ending reelections.

That's the fundamental reason we need Congressional Term Limits. Tenure corrupts!

Comment #6 by anthony sionni on 2013 01 29

Why not let the voters decide. Have a special referendum vote and let the people decide. Conflict of Interest?????

Comment #7 by Patricia McKenna on 2013 01 29

Patricia is right. Why not let the voters decide? Have a referendum vote to let the people decide. Wouldn’t that be wonderful! What a dream!

But it will never happen in RI because the General Assembly won't let it on the ballot.

Rhode Island desperately needs to become a Voter Initiative State (like Massachusetts and many other states) where the voters can gather enough signatures and put it on the ballot. If any state should have voter initiative it should be Rhode Island because of our small size. But the General Assembly which is totally controlled by the Democrats and labor unions have a stranglehold on democracy in this state. They will never give up their total control of our once beautiful state.

So here we stand. The only state that is losing population in country. High taxes, high unemployment and not a lot of hope.

How short of a new revolution will we ever get free?


Comment #8 by James Berling on 2013 01 29

What? Career politicians who are wined and dined all day and get free insider information for all their investments don't like the idea of losing that lifestyle? I am SHOCKED.

Comment #9 by Captain Blacksocks on 2013 01 30

Comparing them to Chafee, Pell, and Pastore. HA!!!! It's not even close. Actually it's insulting to their memory. They were statesmen. These bozo's are professional politicians. A huge difference.

Comment #10 by Patrick Boyd on 2013 01 30

Patricia, sure you're right. The voters should decide.

Just keep in mind, it's these same voters that put (and keep) these no good slime balls in office in the first place.

The voters ARE deciding.....each and every year.

Comment #11 by pearl fanch on 2013 01 31

Professional politicians look at most voters as "chumps", weak-minded dolts who take the path of least resistance and believe their broken promises. RI’s “single lever” party voting is a prime example of how most chumps vote. Are you a chump?

Comment #12 by Charles Marsh on 2013 01 31

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