By Mike Wilcox
I have often been an advocate of term limits in Congress. Having worked on the Hill and seen firsthand how our legislative branch works, I believe our leaders get far too comfortable in their positions, which leads to a lot of verbosity and very little actual work getting done.
Thus I was pleased when Rep. John Conyers stepped down a few weeks ago. The Michigan octogenarian — first elected in 1965 and the longest-serving legislator on Capitol Hill — was far too old and out of touch with today’s world to be effective.
I could say the same for another Michigan congressman who handed his seat over to his wife a couple years ago: John Dingell, the longest-serving lawmaker in the history of our Republic. He was first elected in 1955.
Can you imagine having the same representative for 60 years? Most of us weren’t even born when Dingell was elected. Even less logical, to me at least, is now Debbie Dingell is the new, old representative.
I don’t think our forefathers had any intention of our lawmakers making careers out of brokering power in Washington, D.C. Yet time and again, many of our representatives, particularly ones who hold leadership positions, have been in D.C. for decades.
Utah’s venerable Sen. Orrin Hatch announced last week he is stepping down. Finally, I say. Hatch has been in his seat for 42 years. Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, needs to follow suit in my opinion. He has been running the D.C. gamut for 39 years. Enough is enough, Richard.
The list goes on. McConnell, Pelosi and Schumer have all been hanging around for well over three decades. Dozens more, who might not wield the power of the aforementioned trio, have served at least 30 years.
The old saying “it gets better with age” applies to fine wine, but not to politicians. When you become comfortable in D.C., you are susceptible to the persuasive ways of lobbyists and become entrenched in the status quo.
You also dare not veer from the party line. You become powerful by sucking up to your leaders and fighting to win support for their pet projects. Those who dare to challenge those leaders usually end up with no power, or even worse, defeated at the polls.
There is little opportunity for 30-somethings to gain power or leadership reigns in D.C. You have to pay your dues and maybe, just maybe, after you’ve been around for 30 years, you might be given a key committee chairmanship. That’s the way it works, and if you ask me, it’s not what most Americans expect.
The only way we as constituents will be able to see people like Shelby or Debbie Dingell leave office is if they retire on their own accord, or term limits are put in place and they will be forced out.
So if you want real change in Washington, think about term limits. Most of us would prefer young, vibrant go-getters as our representatives versus octogenarians who prefer sitting around collecting their generous salaries and benefits.