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Should Congressmen have four-year terms?

�Tim West

�Tim West

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Updated: January 11, 2013 10:30AM



It is interesting to note that the brand new congressman in the brand new 11th District, which includes sections of Aurora and Naperville, has expressed support for the idea of increasing the term of members of the House of Representatives from two to four years.

Democrat Bill Foster, who served in the House from 2008 and 2011 in the old 14th District, said in an interview last week “it’s obvious in the behavior of Congress when an election’s coming that not much gets done. Congress is very ineffective in what used to be the four months before the election, and now seems to be the 18 months before.”

Actually, given the bitterly partisan nature of Congress these days, it seems as if the ineffectiveness and the divide between Democrats and Republicans begins the first day of the new Congress and continues all the way through it, so maybe that 18 months is more like 24.

Those, including Foster, who see merit in a four-year term for House members may have at least a partial solution for the acrimony that permeates Washington, D.C. If nothing else, congressmen might have a couple of years relief, where they wouldn’t have to spend all their time reacting to the increasing trench mentality of the party in order to not face a primary challenge. On the other hand, being able to throw a really bad congressman overboard after only two years has its advantages as well.

It’s got to be hard to be a conscientious legislator and do what is best for your constituents and society when you have to keep looking over your shoulder to see if Grover Norquist or the NRA has painted a bullseye on your back because you didn’t sign Norquist’s cockamamie pledge or don’t believe it’s a constitutionally given right for every man to be able to get a weapon with a clip that carries enough rounds to wipe out a room full of kids in the blinking of an eye.

On the other side of the aisle, having to do the bidding of labor unions to get their support doesn’t always make for the best legislative results.

The result of gerrymandering, the primary election system in most states, and huge amounts of money spent on elections pretty much effectively wipes out moderate Republicans and Democrats and results in where we are today — a House of Representatives in which the Speaker of the House can’t even get the support of his own party for compromise legislation.

After all, when someone of the stature of former senator Richard Lugar loses in the primary to a guy who was eminently worthy of the shellacking he received in the general election in conservative Indiana, something is amiss in the system.

Democratic gerrymandering of districts lost our area the services of Judy Biggert, a moderate Republican of the sort there are too few of these days. She was gerrymandered out of a large chunk of her old district and had to move westward to run.

I have to think the results would have been different had the Illinois Democrats not been allowed to draw the map, and a non-partisan commission done so instead.

Taking politicians out of redistricting after a census, in the manner in which a couple of states have done, or having an open primary in which the top two candidates advance no matter to which party they belong, would help.

Congress shouldn’t have to be held captive to the fringe of either party.



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