TED Conversations

Melissa Seideman


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Should term limits be imposed on Congress?

This debate has made for many impassioned, provocative, yet fruitful discussions between myself and others. On the one hand, some call for the imposition of term limits (much like the 2-term limit on presidencies) on Congress in order to ensure the interests of "The People" are valued. These same persons believe that should term limits be imposed, Congress will be more openminded, able to understand the youth of the nation, be more attentive to the problems of today versus those of yesterday, and more technologically advanced, educated, and modernized.

On the other hand, some argue term limits would destroy all sense of stability in the Congress. These same persons claim that Congressmen and women who have served for terms on end are much more aligned with the political system, experienced in writing, debating, and passing legislation, and ultimately hold a better understanding of America and its governmental institutions than their newer and/or younger colleagues. As such, they argue term limit imposition would damage the Congress, "The People's" representation, and ultimately the United States.

Still, others compromise and call for term limits on the House of Representatives, which is meant to be more volatile and more keen to the immediate concerns of the "The People" while leaving the Senate immune to term limit imposition, as it is meant to be more stable and more keen to the longterm concerns of the Union.


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  • Nov 28 2012: Number 1 the ruling elite will never destroy their careers by voting for a term limit constitutional amendment.
    Number 2 - if by chance a limit is imposed it will be for 2 or more terms which negates much of the benefit of
    having only 1 term.

    The only possible constitutional amendment that will pass thru the political elites is one that does not affect their careers and in fact offers new career possibilities which brings me to my solution which also involves the internet and term limits:

    Keep everything in our US federal government pretty much the same so the political elites will not be affected - but create a new "Board of Directors" whose members are elected at large to serve 1 term and 1 term only. Their primary mission will be to preside over an internet based "advisory" initiative and referendum system that gets direct citizen input - but they will also have congressional voting rights as possible gridlock swing votes.
    In the actual Board election the top raw vote getters would win and thereby be inclusive of third parties. Elections would be held in odd numbered years so we don't have to wait 2 years for the possibility of anything getting done in congress. Half of the board would be elected in each election.
    Certainly this would work better than temporary adhoc super committees. Modern organizations run with a Board of Directors - should not our government also have one?
    One final point - I think the president's job is too big - Democrat or Republican, even super man/woman would have a tough time. Past presidents have "on the side" helped out but there is still a "training" period. I think it is time to formalize this help by making past presidents members of the Board automatically - they would serve as long as they wanted to, miuch like supreme court justices. and provide added above the fray, big picture, senior statesman qualities.
    T. Limits, internet democracy entre', less gridlock, citizen input, improved executive
    • Nov 29 2012: "if by chance a limit is imposed it will be for 2 or more terms which negates much of the benefit of
      having only 1 term."

      I'm not sure that representatives never having to worry about reelection outweighs the negative effects of political parties having to field new candidates every election and every representative being a rook who still has to learn on the job (and there won't any experienced mentors to teach them because no one would have more than a few years experience). A 1 term limit is probably not a good idea.


      How are you going to be an effective member of, say, a defense oversight committee when you don't get time to read up on all the files and learning the tricks the military tries to pull on you. And that's just one example, something like the ACA act took a long time to make and negotiate about, probably longer than 2 years, so large legislative changes like that would be impossible if you keep replacing all representatives every 2 years. You'd get Italian-style government (new elections and negotations every 2 years so nothing gets done and the country slips away because its laws and regulations are outdated).
      • Nov 29 2012: The whole point is to get problem solvers in there and less of the politics as usual Democratic/Republican partisan all or nothing mentality - which you still have if you like
        because this is a "tweek" "addon" to the existing system that is not subject to term limits.

        Your so called rooks are likely] to be above the fray big picture types inclusive of ex US presidents, vice presidents, Ross Perot's, Ralph Nader's, Colin Powel's etc..

        Because their main job is overlooking our democratic processes and taking citizen input via
        advisory internet initiatives and referendums we have a part of our government that isn't lock step with a static party platform focused on "the base" and reelection.

        Thanks for your comments

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