2018 Roberts Court

The Roberts Court, November 30, 2018.

There has been some discussion in recent years to have term limits. Whether it’s in the legislative branch or the Supreme Court, officials don’t have to leave office unless elected out, leave on their own behalf or death. With the House of Representatives, representatives have two years in office, in the Senate it’s six years and the Supreme Court justices have lifetime appointments.

Last January, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) proposed a constitutional amendment that would limit senators to twelve years (two six-year terms) and representatives to six years (three two-year terms).

"For too long, members of Congress have abused their power and ignored the will of the American people," Cruz said. "Term limits on members of Congress offer a solution to the brokenness we see in Washington, D.C. It is long past time for Congress to hold itself accountable. I urge my colleagues to submit this constitutional amendment to the states for speedy ratification."

I believe Cruz is headed in the right direction, but I would tinker it. Instead of having two years for representatives, I would extend it to four years. While I like the chance of voting my representative out quickly if they don’t represent the district’s interests, my representative will spend half their term fundraising and campaigning for their next term. Former Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) told television host John Oliver in 2016, in his 16 years in office he held 1,600 fundraising events. That’s one every three days.

According to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), in the two years leading to an election, Senators will spend 66% of the time trying to raise money. So, if that’s true for the Senate, then our House representatives are never not in election-cycle mode, able to focus on their constituents.

For the Supreme Court, it’s not surprising to see justices serve at least 20 years. Current justices Clarence Thomas (28 years), Ruth Ginsburg (26 years) and Stephen Breyer (25 years) have already served over 25 years. Clarence Thomas very well could break the record of longest tenure in the Supreme Court. The record is 36 years, and right now Thomas is six years from breaking that record. Thomas is also 71 years old, and considering Ginsburg is 86 and going strong, Thomas can very well shatter that record.

Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang has proposed an 18-year limit to Supreme Court justices. In making this argument, Yang points out, “Additionally, the stakes involved in the appointment of Supreme Court justices are creating partisan battles that divide our country, create bitter resentment, and allow individuals to delegitimize later decisions with which they disagree.” Which is obviously true.

I believe that reforming house terms by extending it from two years to four years, representatives will be able to focus on the interests of constituents rather than focusing on raising money every second. I would then limit House representatives to three four-year terms. For the Senate, I would follow Cruz’s proposal of limiting senators to two six-year terms. Limiting both offices to a max of twelve years each. For the Supreme Court, I would follow Yang’s proposal, which would give President’s more chances in nominating a Justise and healthfully cycling the court so that it won’t be limited to one ideological bent for decades.

Opinion Editor

Schell-Olsen has been with The News Record since Aug. 2018. He frequently writes about politics, society and elections.