I wrote, not too long ago, proposing an amendment to the US Constitution regarding term limits. My approach here seems to be unusual; I’ve not seen anyone else suggest the idea oflimiting national elected officials to a single term.

Proposed: Amendment to Limit Terms of Office

Section One: The term of Office of United States Senators shall be six years. The term of office of United States Representatives shall be four years. The Term of Office of the President of the United States shall be four years. The term of office of United States Supreme Court justices shall be twelve years. The term of office of all US District Court judges shall be eight years. The term of office of all other federal appointed positions shall be ten years.

Section Two: No officeholder of any of the offices listed in Section One (the “Affected Offices”) shall be eligible for election or appointment to two consecutive terms. Any such officeholder may not take the same office unless at least four years has passed since leaving office, or any other Affected Offices unless at least two years has passed since leaving the most recent Affected Office.

Section Three: This Amendment shall be effective as of the beginning of the first  session of Congress after its ratification (the “Effective Date”), so long as such ratification takes place within seven years after the final version of this Amendment is offered for ratification.

Section Four: No holder of the Affected Offices shall earn or be eligible for federal retirement benefits after the Effective Date. This Amendment will not affect any retirement or other compensation of all Affected Offices earned prior to the Effective Date, but will end the earning of additional retirement compensation.

Section Five: The combined limit of time in any or all of the Effective Offices for any one individual shall be twenty years, with such period counted from the later of (1) the Effective Date, or (2) the date of the beginning of holding the first Affected Office.

Re-electThe idea: No one should go to the federal government to retire. With a nation of about a third of a billion people, plenty of qualified and experienced candidates are available for all of these positions. This doesn’t get deep into the bureaucracy, just the leadership of it … but I am not done yet.

The Cost of Re-Election

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), in announcing her retirement this week, illustrated why this amendment is necessary:

“For me, service is about solving problems for my constituents. I could never put you or your needs on a back burner. With my own re-election on the horizon, I thought long and hard about how I want to spend the next two years – what is it I want to campaign for, for you or for me?

Note the implication here: As a five-term Senator, this statement suggests that she has spent many previous two year periods campaigning for her and not her constituents. And it is true; this has become part of the job of senator, and even more so for representatives in the House.

“I had to decide whether to spend my time fighting to keep my job or fighting for your job. Do I spend my time raising money or raising hell to meet your day-to-day needs?  Do I spend my time focusing on my election or the next generation. Do I spend the next two years making promises about what I will do or making progress on what I can do right now. The more I thought about it, the more the answer became really clear – I want to campaign for you. That’s why I’m here to announce I won’t be seeking a 6th term as a United States Senator for Maryland.

“Because every day, I want to wake up thinking about you — the little guys and gals, the watermen, automobile workers, researchers, small business owners and families. I want to give you 120 percent of my time with all of my energy focused on you and your future. Because it’s always been about you, never about me.

Except, evidently, during the four two-year periods of her previous re-election campaigns. That’s what this amendment is to eliminate.

That’s what it takes to be a good senator by my expectations and by my standards.

I would agree in principle: Work on your job, not your re-election. In Ms. Mikulski’s case, her sudden attack of nobility and public spirit seems to have been motivated by the fact that she would not likely succeed in the campaign; this is the state that just elected a Republican governor and her seat was considered a likely Republican pickup. But no matter; the point remains.

Of course, Congress will not proffer such an amendment; it cuts into their action. This can only come about through a “Convention for Proposing Amendments” as described in Article V of the US Constitution.

==============/ Keith DeHavelle