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James Durney

Position Paper
Term Limits

Some of the major concepts involved in both testimonies are unsurprisingly

similar. Simply glancing at the title tells the reader to begin weighing the amount and

quality of choices involved in electing a senator or representative. The existence of term

limits is argued to allow for a wider base of candidates even promoting the running and

election of minorities for office (Jacob, 174). Jacob continues to stress that even the

quantity of candidates increases and the number of unopposed incumbents decreases-

providing choice where there is none (175). Also, given any term limits the turnover rate

would increase (Jacob, 177). Given an imminently vacant office, the public would be

forced to make a choice between entirely fresh candidates. In the entire article by

Hibbing, never does the word or idea of choice appear but in the title.

The second theme to appear is congressional efficiency and all its aspects.

Hibbing can't weigh the productivity of a congress with term limits versus the status quo,

so he must try to make other connections. He points to individual members of congress

and the differences in new legislators compared to senior officials, making the case that

the experienced delegates more frequently sponsor bills, offer amendments, speeches, and

even that "a greater percentage of their legislation becomes law" (Hibbing, 180). It

seems obvious that someone more familiar with a given process will be better equipped

to act expeditiously and ultimately be more efficacious. Jacob's first argument relating to

efficiency is monetary; asserting that campaign expenditures are dramatically lower

because of term limits (174). Lower cost is, in a very fundamental sense, more efficient.

Also, term limits are said to abate "partisanship, gridlock, and special interest influence
(Jacob, 175)," which can squander the already exhaustive time of a session.

Both speakers talk of experience, but in vastly different ways. Hibbling affirms

that seasoned veterans of congress have a necessary understanding that leads to more

"successful legislative agendas (181). Jacob refers to a societal experience. Democratic

societies have been evolving for much longer than any senator could remember, even

Robert Byrd. There are obviously things to be learned from the past such as

Washington's decline for a third term out of respect for democracy. Even in the time of

Aristotle, Greeks used "term limits, or rotation in office (Jacob, 174)." If these

historically revered entities valued term limits there just might be something therein

worth considering.

Finally, the congress in representing the populous should also represent its desires.

According to a 1996 poll of 1,000 adults, term limits, and relatively short ones, are

exactly what the American people want (Jacob, 176). Hibbing, however seems to think

that Americans really don't know what they want-contending that citizens would be more

depressed with congress if term limits didn't produce the desired effect (Hibbing, 182).

He, likewise, makes the case that no-one knows exactly what will be the result of term

limits. Some say that congress would be more in touch with constituents and others say

that members conscious of a short tenure would be more likely to violate any promises

made (Hibbing, 181). This seems like an argument for more research, not for abandoning

the option altogether.


Works Cited:

Hibbing, John R.. "Congressional Term Limits: Restricting Choice." You Decide! Current
Debates in American Politics. Ed. John T. Rourke. New York: Pearson-Longman,
2007
Jacob, Paul. “Congressional Term Limits: Promoting Choice." You Decide! Current
Debates in American Politics. Ed. John T. Rourke. New York: Pearson-Longman,
2007.