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Gridlock & Term Limits

The National Debt was, and will probably always be, my number one political issue, but ‘Gridlock In Washington’ and ‘Congressional Term Limits’ will likely continue to be my runner-up concerns - at least until they cease to be problems.

Of course, excessive partisan voting in Congress is the reason for gridlock. Both major parties stand on such ceremony, and individual members of Congress break less and less from Party protocol. And, if they do, they might find themselves with:

1. less financial support from their Party for their re-election campaign;
2. a primary opponent at re-election time;
3. fewer or less significant committee appointments if re-elected.

Gridlock not only prevents new legislation from being passed, but it also stops the necessary repeal of laws and regulations that have become outdated, or simply aren’t working for one reason or another.

The negative effects of gridlock don’t stop there. When our country’s credit rating was lowered a number of years ago, the inability of Congress to pass legislation - due to GRIDLOCK - was cited as the primary reason!

My solution? Do not re-elect members of Congress who have demonstrated an overly partisan voting record, as too many partisan votes signify the failure to reach across the aisle to get things done.

Another possible solution for gridlock might be for Congressional members to take a cue from President Ronald Reagan. They need to spend time becoming acquainted with as many of their fellow members as possible - particularly those of the opposing party - to build a foundation of mutual respect; only then can they find common ground and forge compromise.

A more drastic solution for gridlock, but certainly worthy of discussion, would be to amend the Constitution so that the candidate with the second highest number of electoral votes in the Presidential election would automatically become Vice President.  Such a mandate would mean a President and Vice President from different parties would have to learn how to work together, setting the tone for Congress.  Along similar lines, the Constitution could require the President to appoint at least 20% of his or her cabinet members from a party other than his or her own.

The dire need for Congressional Term Limits is somewhat tied to the excessive partisanship that creates gridlock. The three incentives listed above that encourage partisan voting (and subsequently gridlock) also present a very good argument for term limits.

Here’s yet another reason for term limits: An incumbent up for re-election may feel pressured to support (in Congress) an issue important to a campaign contributor, even if that position is not in the best interest of the people they were initially elected to represent!

My answer to this problem is basic. We need to remove all of these conflicts of interest by prohibiting members of Congress from serving consecutive terms. In other words, House and Senate members would need to ‘sit-out’ every other election; they would do their job in Congress, and then return to their livelihood - allowing a new person the opportunity to serve. When it’s time for the subsequent election, they could run again.

This would work fine in the Senate where existing terms are already a lengthy six years. However in the House, where terms are only two years, it would be beneficial to extend that to at least four or five years. Otherwise, the short two year term could potentially be a disincentive to serve, not to mention the fact that lawmakers would probably find it difficult to accomplish much of significance in such a short time.

Yet another advantage of prohibiting consecutive terms is that members of Congress would be able to concentrate on the job they were elected to do, rather than constantly fundraising for their reelection and their party. In April 2016 “60 Minutes” did an eye opening piece about the immense demands put on members of Congress to spend huge amounts of time ‘dialing for dollars.’

I fully realize what I am suggesting would probably require a Constitutional amendment, and I don’t take that lightly. However, our Founders could not have imagined the ‘big business’ that elections, and particularly re-elections, have become; so, this change may be just what we need to compensate for that.

Many say that such a solution is unrealistic because it would literally entail asking members of Congress to vote themselves out of a job. The way around that is to propose that the change not take effect until 20 years from now. That may seem like a long time to wait, but just imagine; if we took this step 20 years ago, which doesn’t seem THAT long ago, we’d be ‘sitting pretty’ today.

In the meantime, it’s still the prerogative of the electorate NOT to re-elect their Senators and Representatives time and time again.  It’s still our responsibility to exercise our vote to give someone else a chance.

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