Term limits for Congress are wildly popular. But most experts say they’d be a bad idea

Despite 87% of Americans supporting term limits for Congress, most experts argue that the measure could entail negative implications.

Public support: Recent political infighting and health issues among aging Congress members have reignited public calls for federal term limits.
* A Pew Research Center survey found that 87% of Americans support congressional term limits, with equal support from both Democrats and Republicans.
* Advocacy group U.S. Term Limits states that term limits have become popular due to instances of politicians losing control or cognitive decline, and the apparent lack of democracy in U.S elections due to the incumbency advantage.

Arguments against term limits: Experts indicate that term limits do not address core issues such as gerrymandering, political polarization and the influence of special interests.
* Academics have found that the effects of term limits are often mixed and don’t necessarily reduce polarization.
* Casey Burgat, director of the Legislative Affairs program at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, notes that incumbency advantage is often linked to redistricting, leading to uncompetitive seats favoring a particular party.

Unintended consequences: Research has found potential negative outcomes in the 16 states that implemented term limits for state legislators.
* Susan Valdes, a Democratic state lawmaker in Florida, notes that term limits have slowed policy creation and resulted in unintended policy consequences.
* Academics have also found evidence that term limits increase special interest influence.

Expert critiques: Critics argue that term limits could diminish the importance of institutional knowledge and increase self-interest among lawmakers.
* Burgat indicates that term limits can disincentivize lawmakers to learn and understand policies and procedures at depth.
* He also notes that term-limited lawmakers may look out for themselves more than their constituents, facilitating increased cooperation with lobbyists.

Legal considerations: A 1995 U.S. Supreme Court ruling indicated that even if Congress managed to impose limits, they could be ruled unconstitutional, meaning that term limits might require a constitutional amendment.

View original article on NPR

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