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Republican Candidates Push for Term Limits in Washington

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The state’s three leading Republican Congressional candidates have all signed pledges to advocate for an amendment that would limit members of the House to three terms and members of the Senate to two terms, a plan they say would help rid Washington of career politicians.

In separate interviews, Senate candidate Barry Hinckley and House candidates Brendan Doherty and Michael Riley all confirmed they support the amendment, which would require a two-thirds majority vote in the House and Senate, and ratification by 38 states in order to become part of the Constitution.

South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and Arizona Representative David Schweikert, both Republicans, sponsored the legislation in their respective chambers this year.

“Barry believes that in order for Congress to maintain a healthy working relationship and champion the issues important to their constituents, it is imperative to implement term limits,” said campaign manager Patrick Sweeney. “Unfortunately, Senator Whitehouse has voted against a term limits amendment apparently because he is content with career politicians running our government.”

Pushing for term limits has long been a trendy strategy for candidates running for office. On Tuesday, the Huffington Post reported that Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan supported limits in 1998, but refused to sign any pledge.

“Term ideas have virtually no chance of passage in Congress,” said Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. “Members will never limit their ability to seek re-election so there isn’t much likelihood of these proposals being adopted.”

But Doherty spokesman Ian Prior said his candidate believes that as legislators spend more time in Washington, they become less connected to those they represent and “tend to lose the perspective that is necessary to be an effective public servant.”

“Brendan is of the strong opinion that, by limiting the term of Representatives, we can limit the power of lobbyists, special interests, and career politicians and thereby return the government to the people,” he said.

Riley agreed with Prior, suggesting that special interests and revolving door politics are damaging Washington.

“I believe term limits help promote new ideas and meritocracy,” Riley said. “New blood breaks ties to special interests and creates an environment where elected officials vote on principle. Anything that drives money away from Washington is good. It stands to reason that Congressman will be more responsive to their constituents if they know they will soon be out of power.”

Like West, Brown political science professor Wendy Schiller raised doubts about term limits.

“The problem with these pledges is that very frequently politicians go back on them and decide to stay in Washington,” Schiller said. “From a voter's perspective this is typically a good thing because after a few terms, House and Senate members gain more experience, knowledge, and influence so they can and typically do serve their constituents more effectively over time.”

Schiller continued: “Rhode Island has some excellent examples of long time service both in the House and the Senate. I never quite understand these pledges because most voters return their incumbents to office, so why make the pledge in the first place?”

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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