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We now have the oldest United States Senate in history. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is 87 years old. California Senator Diane Feinstein is 88 years old. It is time to rethink tenure limits.
Unfortunately, many of these people were elected when they were young, but they stayed and stayed. Senator Mitch McConnell has been the Senior United States Senator from Kentucky since 1985 – the same year the wreckage of the RMS Titanic was located.
Because we have people who stay way too long, way past their expiration date, it leads to a consolidation of power, and it leads to corruption.
Some say the best term limits are elections, but we keep returning the same senators to power. More than 90% of incumbents are re-elected in each electoral cycle. Switching to another existence seems to be the only way people can leave the US Senate these days.
Term limits should also apply to the senator’s staff. Otherwise you end up with staff running everything and members going around and that doesn’t change the balance of power or change the way things are done, nor does having the same senators forever.
There is nothing in the Constitution that says committee assignments should be made on the basis of seniority or the length of your membership in Congress. Why not assign committees based on who is most qualified to lead that committee, who has the most expertise or experience?
You have members of Congress who will say, “Voter, you can vote for whoever you want. But if you don’t vote for me, as the incumbent for 20 years, you will lose power. You are going to lose money. You will lose influence for your state or for your district.
We actually have a good example of the error of this argument here in Utah.
Whether you like Mitt Romney or not, he entered the committee without an assignment, with no seniority, and had a major influence on many political discussions and issues because he just signed up. He left after that. Romney has shown that you don’t have to be chairman of a committee to have power and influence
I passionately believe that the founders viewed service in Washington, DC as seasonal. You gave it your all for a season, a few years at most, and then moved on.
The fallacy of the indispensable
As a business consultant, I got involved with organizations and they would say, “Oh, you know, Mary is absolutely essential. We would fall apart without Mary.
And that was always a wake-up call to me because it showed that the organization was too dependent on one person or that the company had become too comfortable with a certain way of doing business. When members of Congress begin to believe that they are indispensable and irreplaceable, that’s a problem.
Follow General Washington’s example
I’ve always said that the only national holiday we really miss in the country is December 23. On that day, in 1783, George Washington – after leading and winning the War of Independence – resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, marking the first time in world history that General commanding a victorious army did not assume absolute power.
General Washington knew his work was seasonal. He also knew that the power belongs to the people. And we need to celebrate and emulate this more often than we do.
To this day, civilian command of the military is a hallmark of American democracy.
Adopting term limits in the House and the Senate will oblige us, We the people, to conduct this conversation because no one else will ever make it inside the walls of Congress.
Internal sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.