DeMint takes aim at "permanent politicians"
Sen. Jim DeMint says Washington politicians are like fruit on the vine: the longer they hang around, the more rotten they get.
The South Carolina Republican - hearkening back to the days of the party's "Contract with America" - on Tuesday offered a fix to the corrupting influence of "permanent politicians," introducing an amendment to the Constitution that would limit Senate members to three six-year terms and House members to three two-year terms.
"As long as members have the chance to spend their lives in Washington, their interests will always skew toward spending taxpayer dollars to buy off special interests, covering over corruption in the bureaucracy, fundraising, relationship building among lobbyists, and trading favors for pork - in short, amassing their own power," said Mr. DeMint, who is running for a second term next year.
Senate leaders and longtime Washington watchdogs said Mr. DeMint's bill had a zero chance of becoming law, mostly because of a general lack of interest and the high hurdles to amending the Constitution.
"It's a great issue to talk about, but it's not going to happen," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic majority's second-highest ranking leader.
Mr. Durbin said he didn't know whether the bill would even get a vote.
Term limits have not been a cause celebre on Capitol Hill since the issue featured prominently in the "Contract with America" that helped the Republican Party win control of Congress in 1994. House Republicans brought three versions of constitutional amendments for term limits to the floor in 1995 and each failed to win the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), disagrees with Mr. DeMint's premise that politicians get more corrupt the longer they serve.
"There are plenty of bad members who have been there a short time and plenty of bad members who have been there a long time," she said. "Length of service just isn't telling enough. It doesn't make a great member or a terrible member."
With all due respect to Ms. Sloane, Senator DeMint is correct in his assertion about those congress critters that have decided to make themselves permanent politicians. The Founding Fathers never wanted those who serve in Congress to make a career out of it. They knew that the best way to ensure the life of this republic was to make sure there was fresh blood and new ideas in Congress, standing up for the founding principles.
And while Ms. Sloane's point is understood (about those being in Congress a short time could be as bad as those who serve a long time) there are those that have been there too long. Charlie Rangel (serial tax evader), John Murtha (king of pork spending from Pennsylvania), Barney Frank (helped perpetuate the falling of Fannie and Freddie), Nancy Pelosi (ruling the house like she's the queen), and the list is endless. And for those who think I'm just picking on Democrats, I'm not. It's time for people like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Orrin Hatch to call it quits, as well.
So long as these politicians continue to serve in Congress, they're susceptible to corruption and complacency. Take a look at how well Congress listened to us this year alone. During august, people flocked to town hall meetings where not only were they not listened to, but at a few of them, they were attacked by the politicians holding the meetings. People are seeing that there is a distinct disconnect between those who enjoy the perks of being in Congress and the general public, and quite frankly we're fed up. Talking with friends and associates, I've noticed that a movement is beginning to form to vote out all incumbents this year. (Problem with this is those incumbents need to lose in their primaries; we're not simply going to vote for the other guy just because. We want those new and fresh ideas going to Congress, not the same old song and dance in a new suit.)
Does this have a chance of passing? Not bloody likely. The monkeys in Congress aren't going to vote themselves out of office voluntarily. It's possible Senator DeMint can get this to the floor for a vote, but it will fail just as it did back in 1995. It's sad, really, that the people in Congress care more about their cushy job than what's best for the nation.