Would four year House term make Congress any better?

Photo Credit: Greg Nash/The Hill
Photo Credit: Greg Nash/The Hill

A Democratic congressman is floating an idea that makes so much sense, it will probably be universally ignored.

John Larson, an eight-term congressman from Connecticut, recommends that members’ terms be extended to four years and elections be staggered every two years so that only half the House of Representatives would be up for re-election at one time, according to The Hill.

Right now, House members serve two-year terms, while their counterparts in the Senate serve six-year terms.

So when a new House member arrives in Washington, Larson said, “the first orders that the Republican Conference and Democratic Caucus give is, ‘Get on the phone and start raising money again. You’ve got an election coming up.’ And I think we ought to reverse that priority.”

The former high school history teacher emphasized that extending terms would enable members to familiarize themselves with the ways of Congress, instead of having to scramble for campaign contributions.

“I think the two-year cycle and all the demands that places on individuals tends to lend itself to one chasing their tail in terms of raising money required to get re-elected,” he said.

In agrarian America in the summer of 1787, when the Constitution was under debate, the prominent issues of the day included transportation, communication and sharing power with a federal, centralized government were of prime importance. The Founding Fathers considered national service a part-time job, since most of the government operated at the state level.

Now that the pendulum has shifted and Washington is the focus of power, a four-year term would allow members to do their jobs more effectively, Larson said. With 435 representatives in the House, fundraising pressures are constant and collegiality takes a back seat to electioneering.

“I think this would ease the pressure all the way around, and I think [it would] also probably create a better climate here of understanding and opportunity for people to better get to know one another,” Larson told The Hill.

photo from PBS.org
photo from PBS.org

Amending the Constitution, of course, requires approval from three-quarters of the 50 state legislatures, and it’s proven an immensely difficult task.

But Larson believes his measure’s popularity would grow in time as more people become aware of its benefits.

“I’ll bet a number of tea party members would probably even agree with me as well,” he added.

If he tacked on term limits, he’d really be onto something.

 

Richard Berkow

Former political news reporter Richard Berkow lost his idealism in the Kennedy years, and his innocence in Vietnam, Lebanon, and the Soviet Union. He hasn’t mellowed since, and can be harassed at [email protected]

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