Addressing the elephant in the room

Term limits enacted for President to prevent tyrannical rule, why do we not have them for Congress?

term limits

Term limits for the Presidency is a concept that has been controversial since the framing of the Constitution. The position of President had not existed under the Articles of Confederation, with Congress instead wielding both legislative and executive powers. The British Monarchy was not an example the framers wanted to follow since our country was founded as a result of revolution from Great Britain.

Alexander Hamilton and James Madison supported a lifetime appointment to the office of President decided by Congress, not the people.  That would have made the presidency what Virginia’s George Mason called an “elective monarchy,” however, and when this was put to a vote it failed by only six votes to four.

George Washington set the precedent to retire after serving two terms and this precedent was upheld with every following President until FDR. Roosevelt The crisis of the second world war prompted Roosevelt to run for a third term. Then a fourth. When the war was over concern rose over tyrannical rule and the twenty-second amendment was enacted to limit the term of President to two terms.  

The question arises why is Congress not also limited to two terms? If term limits for the President are a good thing why not for Congress. Is the legislative branch not also susceptible to tyranny and arrogance that could arise from an unlimited term of office?

Below are the current highest years of service in Congress. Many more are 20 plus years well beyond two terms in office.


Patrick Leahy (D) Vermont 42 years

Orin Hatch ® Utah 40 years

Chuck Grassley(R) Iowa 36 years

Mitch McConnell ® Kentucky 32 Years

Richard Shelby ® Alabama 30 years

John McCain ® Arizona 30 years


John Conyers (D) Michigan since resigned in disgrace 52 years

Jim Sensenbrenner  ® Wisconsin 38 years

Hal Rodgers (R) Kentucky 36 years

Steny Hoyer (D) Maryland 36 years

Sandy Levin (D) Michigan 34 years

Peter J Visclosky (D) Indiana 32 years

The subject of term limits comes up every once in a while. Most recently President Trump promised to get term limits in his first 100 days in office. But who votes on term limits? Congress, and Congress is not going to give up it’s power. As Lord Acton remark in a letter to an Anglican bishop.  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men,…”

John McCain is a perfect example of why we need term limits in Congress. The only time he has been to work this year while fighting cancer is to vote against repeal and replace of Obamacare. The only time McCain has been to work this year was to be an obstructionist and carry out a grudge against Trump.

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