12 years is enough, congressman says
by C. Benjamin Ford
If U.S. Rep. Andrew Harris’ proposal for congressional terms were to succeed, he would be out of a job on Capitol Hill in another eight years.
Harris (R-Dist. 1) of Cockeysville introduced a measure to limit the number of terms a person could serve consecutively in Congress to two terms in the U.S. Senate and six terms in the House of Representatives. Senate terms are six years, and House terms are two years.
“Limiting congressional terms is a common-sense way to change Washington and make sure our elected leaders work for the people instead of the special interests,” Harris said. “We need more citizen leaders who are willing to address our challenges instead of coming to Washington to become career politicians.”
Too many in Congress worry more about the next election rather than addressing “out of control spending or preserving our entitlement programs,” Harris said.
But Harris’ proposal is unlikely to get far in Congress, said John N. Bambacus, professor emeritus of Frostburg State University’s Department of Political Science.
“The people who would determine if that becomes a law are the people who it would affect, and very seldom do people want to put themselves out of a job, and that is what would happen,” Bambacus said.
When he ran for the House of Representatives in 1992, Roscoe G. Bartlett supported term limits, as well, but after serving in Washington, D.C., he no longer backed them, Bambacus said.
Bartlett, who served from 1992 until he was defeated in the 2012 election, said in a recent interview that his views on term limits had evolved because he came to realize the importance of congressional experience. He also feared that term limits would increase the power of congressional staff.
Bambacus had a different view of Bartlett’s transformation on the issue.
“He got struck by Potomac fever and changed,” Bambacus said.
When he was a state senator in Annapolis from 1983 to 1991, representing Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties, Bambacus introduced his own term-limits bill for state legislators, he said.
The bill never made it out of committee, he said with a laugh.
After serving two terms in the Senate, Bambacus chose not to run again, even though he had been unopposed in both elections and did not expect opposition for a third term.
“What happens is you then become a professional politician as opposed to the true meaning of a citizen legislator,” Bambacus said. “Experience is sometimes not everything people think it is, and sometimes you need fresh ideas.”