St. Mary's Law Journal


Addressing Congressional woes requires reform. Entrenched incumbency is a detriment to the legislative system. Although the enactment of initiatives restricting Congressional terms limits signal voters agree, better alternatives exist. The only prerequisites found in the Constitution for serving in Congress are age, residency, and citizenship. While the twenty-second amendment proscribes the presidential office limit maximum as two terms, no such limitations exist for a congressman or congresswoman. Sitting incumbents have substantial advantages over their challengers. Incumbents success ratio exceeds 80% in Senate races and is approximately 90% for elections in the House of Representatives. Congressional term limitations attempt to eliminate “careerism” and abusive actions by incumbents. The preoccupation of reelection by politicians suffering from “careerism” can cause incumbents to devote up to half of their two-year term campaigning instead of legislating. Term limitations will unavoidably cause greater representative turnover. This will ensure close connections of legislators to constituents and prevent incumbents from becoming permanent fixtures in Washington susceptible to special-interest groups. Finally, term limitations will help restore competitiveness to the election process. Congressional benefits such as franking privileges, free travel, and superior fund-raising abilities all heavily favor incumbents over challengers. In response, some states limit the number of consecutive terms a representative may serve. Other states limit ballot access by removing the incumbents' names from ballots and requiring voters to write in the candidates' names if they wish to reelect them. ballots and requiring voters to write-in the candidates name if they wish to reelect. Term restrictions do have significant disadvantages. Limiting congressional terms will cause the neglect of long-term goals, usher in more inexperienced legislators, increase staff reliance, and decrease the attractiveness of Congressional service by quality candidates. Limiting the terms of committee chairpersons and campaign-financing reform will decrease the influence of special interest groups and appropriately address representational issues. Voters must encourage representatives of the need for progressive change.


St. Mary's University School of Law