Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Term Limits. Please?

In this corner: US Senator Bill Frist, US Senator David Vitter, US Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite.

In that corner: House Speaker Denny Hastert, US Senator Trent Lott, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner.

Aside from the obvious difference between the two corners -- the Frist/Vitter/Brown-Waite corner all condemn Speaker Hastert's condemnation of the court-sanctioned FBI raid against the office of US Rep. William Jefferson, while the Hastert/Lott/Pelosi/Sensenbrenner corner all condemn the FBI and the Justice Department for the raid -- what is the other, not-so-obvious difference?

Term limits. Or, to be more precise, their individual length of service in the Congress.

To wit, in this case, at least, one can determine a player's likely view on the constitutionality of the FBI search of Mr. Jefferson's congressional office based on how long they've been serving in the Congress.

Mr. Frist promised, when first campaigning for the US Senate in 1994, that he a) would vote for an amendment limiting the terms of Members of Congress, and b) would self-term-limit himself to just two terms in the Senate. He voted for the term limit constitutional amendment in 1995, in the first year of his first term. And he is retiring at the end of this, his second, term.

Mr. Vitter made his bones in the Louisiana legislature by mobilizing public pressure on the state legislature's leadership, and virtually single-handedly forced term limits down their throats. He is currently serving his first term in the US Senate, after having served two full terms in the US House.

Ms. Brown-Waite has only been in Congress since her first election in 2002.

Mr. Hastert, on the other hand, has been in Congress since first being elected in 1986 -- 20 years ago. He is running this year for reelection to his eleventh term.

Ms. Pelosi has been in Congress since first being elected in June 1987, and is now serving her ninth full term. She is running this year for reelection to her tenth full term.

Mr. Lott has been in Congress since first being elected to the US House in 1972, before being elected to the US Senate in 1988. That's 16 years in the House and 18 years in the Senate. And this year he's running for reelection to his fourth term in the Senate.

Mr. Sensenbrenner has been in Congress since first being elected in 1978 -- 28 years ago -- and is running for reelection to his 15th term.

Term limits, anyone?


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