Without term limits, politicians are beholden to party, not people
© Getty

The career politician has become a fixture in the United States legislature.

Has this provided the necessary connection to the people that allow the House of Representatives to reflect the will of the people? Or do these career politicians owe more to the political party which backs their election campaign, while creating an allegiance to party over their oath of office to the Constitution or their constituents?

ADVERTISEMENT

The constitutional foundation for the creation of the House of Representatives can be found in the some writings of our founding fathers in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers:

  • Madison writes in No. 39 (Federalist Papers) that “The House of Representatives will derive its power from the people of America…”

  • Madison also refers in No. 52 (Federalist Papers) to the House of Representatives as, “That branch of the federal government which ought to be dependent on the people alone.” He further relates in No. 52 (Federalist Papers) that, “Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy (on the people) can be effectually secured.”

  • Hamilton, in No. 21 (Federalist Papers) believed that “The natural cure for an ill administration in a popular or representative constitution is a change of men.”

  • Colonel Mason presented on June 6, 1787 (Anti-Federalist Papers): “The people will be represented; they ought therefore to choose the representatives. The requisites in actual representation are that the representatives should sympathize with their constituents; should think as they think, and feel as they feel; and for these purposes should even be residents among them.”

  • The CATO letter of November 22, 1787 (Anti-Federalist Papers) gives further insight into the founding fathers conceptualization of the House of Representatives as the people’s house. “Another thing may be suggested against the small number of representative is, that but few of you will have the chance of sharing even in this branch of the legislature….”

From these historical writings we can infer two major points that formed the basis for the House of Representatives.

The first confirms the House of Representatives was universally envisioned as the people’s house, not a body of professional politicians. This legislative body was formed to provide the direct voice of the people not a political party, or organized minority factions as George Washington put it, into the actual formation of the laws that will govern the nation.  

MORE STORIES FROM THE HILL:

Simulated 'Convention of States' is source of hope for government reform

Trump's idea to 'open up' libel laws works just fine for us in Britain 

The next principle further draws this body closer to the people with concern over the size of the House and the term of service. The Founding Fathers wanted to balance the size to provide for enough representation to reflect the interests of the common people while trying to limit the tendency to become to bureaucratic. The House was envisioned to have a relatively high turnover, as evidenced by setting the election of these representatives every two years rather than a home for entrenched political party loyalists.

The representatives to the constitution convention thought this would guarantee the House would always have representatives who faced the issues in their businesses, who were confronted with the issues in their community and who lived the issues with their families in their homes.

In the 113th Congress, which ran from January 2013 - January 2015, 174 members, or a full 40 percent of the representatives in the House of Representatives, had more than ten years of service, while 73 of the members or 16.8 percent had over 20 years. This hardly provides the attachment to the common citizen and accountability to constituents envisioned by the framers of the Constitution.

A September 2015 article by John Fund in the National Review reports that 75 percent of the people support term limits for Congress. Fund also details the advantages of term limits witnessed and cited by some of these same career politicians.

So why is this not even mentioned in the current election campaigns or asked by the so-called debate “moderators?” Is this another indicator that the issues that are close to the people are being obscured by the campaigns in favor of their political party’s tabloid sensationalist propaganda?  

Limiting the number of terms that a representative may serve in the House would mitigate the influence of the political party by making the common citizen more likely to be elected to these positions.

This would insure that the issues of the constituents are at the forefront when the representative has to go home and live with the effects of their voting record, rather than those party issues pressed by the career politicians.

Limiting the number of terms that a representative could serve in the house to five terms for a total of 10 years would allow for adequate representation; maintain connectivity with the impact and desires of the constituency and limit the tendency for party loyalty to outstrip all other decision factors.

DeMaggio is a retired Special Agent in Charge and retired Captain in the U.S. Navy. He is also the author of “I Pledge Allegiance,” available on Google Books. The above is the opinion of the author and is not meant to reflect the opinion of the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Government.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.