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Debating the Limits on Lawmakers' Terms

The editorial ``No to Term Limits,'' Dec. 14, says that term limits would ``restrict citizens' right to choose....'' What could be more restrictive than the present system? In the last election, over 90 percent of the House incumbents were either unopposed or in financially noncompetitive races. Very few qualified challengers were willing to engage in an almost hopeless challenge. The author says term limits ``would send packing skillful senators and representatives....'' As evidenced by the way the budget deficit, trade deficit, government spending, and campaign financing has been handled, the limited number of skilled congressmen are not effective under the present system. They concentrate on getting reelected, pork-barrel politics and easy nonissues such as flag burning.

Successful business organizations do not keep managers in the same positions of power for life, or until they are removed by scandal or death. During such long periods of control, they tend to become complacent about business needs, delegating work to staff while concentrating on enhancing their own wealth and power.

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We must have a change in government, and thankfully President Bush and the people favor it. It is ironic that Congress accepts the people's position on all issues except those that effect their own power, prestige, or pocketbook.

William M. Cooper, Easton, Md.

The author's arguments against limiting the term of lawmakers are well stated. The congressman from our district is considered one of the best. He generally wins elections with a minimum of opposition. Yet just as he takes office, circumstances force him to begin preparing for the next election campaign, two years hence. This does not keep him from doing a first-rate job, but many of his colleagues are more concerned about getting reelected than doing the job at hand. Our congressman has loyal supporters who don't represent special-interest groups but rather are educated, middle-class individuals who have only moderate means to contribute to election campaigns. Yet they are determined to elect capable candidates. Extending a congressman's term to four years would not eliminate the problem entirely for the lawmaker or for the voter, but it would reduce it to a more manageable size.

Donald R. Fessler, Blacksburg, Va., Community Leader Training Associates

The editorial making the case against term limits for lawmakers concludes by saying, ``But why remove lawmakers just as they start to get truly knowledgeable and effective?'' Honest, sincere persons, using common sense and acting intelligently, would probably do far better for the US than the job being done now. As the saying goes, a new broom sweeps clean - and we need some cleaning! How can we justify limiting the most important job in the country, the presidency, to only eight years and still believe that members of Congress are only starting to be knowledgeable and effective after 12? Albert M. Frost, White Plains, N.Y.

Rotation in office never harms government when representation, not reelection, is the goal of elected officials. The longer elected public officials are in office, the more insulated they become to the issues of their constituency. David G. Soule, Carmel Valley, Calif.

The editorial suggests that most lawmakers just ``start to get truly knowledgable and effective'' after 12 years. The author says a term limit of 12 years for both the House and the Senate is ``the most common proposal.'' I would favor limits of 12 years for the president, 16 years for the House, and 24 years for the Senate. Representatives should be elected for four-year terms. Thus, presidents would be limited to three terms and members of the House and Senate to four consecutive terms. Jim Seagraves, Oregon City, Ore.

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Our Constitution's authors did not plan to make service as a representative of a constituency into a permanent career in the same position. They were attempting to avoid any semblance of a hereditary monarchy or permanent ruling body composed of the same individuals. Just as we need to be able to keep the good servants on, we also need to be able to bring in new blood and fresh ideas. Term limits guarantee that they cannot be kept out, while at the same time guaranteeing the riddance of stale ideas. I fail to see how term limits would weaken Congress against the presidency where an equivalent limit has been in place for some time. Marvin J. Ward, Raleigh, N.C.

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