Alternatives to Term Limits
Regarding the column No' to Term Limits," Oct. 24: The growing tide of discussion regarding term limits for federal legislators is healthy and your coverage has been excellent.Two major problems arise when discussing term limits. First, our country needs to find a way of retaining the experience and wisdom of seasoned, responsible, hard-working legislators. Secondly, we need to find a means of countering the power which incumbency confers upon all legislators, good and bad alike. One solution might be to bar legislators from holding a seat for more than two consecutive terms. After two terms a legislator would have to give up his or her seat and go "on sabbatical" for one term. This would create the opportunity for an election contest between nonincumbents at least every two terms. It would also give the newly elected member one term in which to establish a solid reputation while allowing the former member a chance to come back and convince the voters to choose experience and reelect him or her to the congressional seat. Finally, this scheme would balance continuity with change in Congress. Donald J. Clark, Portland, Maine
The column informed your readers that term limits are not the answer to congressional corruption. The author is correct. The answer to our problem is the need for honesty, fiscal responsibility, and ethics in government. But, until these cornerstones of good citizenship are restored to our legislators, term limitations are the only answer. The author points out that term limitations would fill the Congress with novices - novices such as the group of farmers and businessmen who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We could do worse. Term limitations would prevent some very talented people from continuing in office. It would also, however, rule out legions of plagiarists, womanizers, Keating Fives, and pork-barrel experts. There are a lot of talented people in this country who could and would fill the gap. As one of our elder statesmen said, "If you have a bad hand, get rid of it." I say our present system, where 98 percent of the House is reelected year after year, can hardly be called a democracy. Blaine R. Butler, Prescott, Ariz.
One way to test the validity of the proposed and controversial term-limitation bills might be to ascertain how much a congressman's negligence or venality is influenced by length of term. One way to do this would be to examine the records of our congressmen to determine how many of those who have served in Congress for more than 12 years have committed such irregularities as bouncing checks at the House bank or leaving restaurant bills unpaid. This figure then could be compared to the number of newer congressmen who have made the same indiscretions to see if there is a discrepancy. Statistics such as this would, I think, help us better determine the need for a term-limitation bill. C. Freeman Keith, Lancaster, N. H.
Advise and consent, and confirmation Regarding the opinion-page article "The Senate Should Advise as Well as Consent," Oct.21: The roles of the president and Congress in the advise-and-consent process are clearly stated in the Constitution. The president nominates, Senate advises and consents. To broach the idea that the president should surrender any part of his powers is somewhat disingenuous. What the author proposes is akin to the proposal made to James Madison in 1813, namely that a committee formed by the Senate would confer with the president over nominations. Mr. Madison, of course, rejected the plan as unconstitutional. The passage of the 17th amendment made a shambles of the confirmation process by having the people, rather than state legislatures, elect senators. Thus the Senate was no longer the deliberative body envisioned by the Constitution-framers. Advise and consent, by nature, is a deliberative process and if we are serious about restoring it, the 17th amendment will have to be repealed. John R. Carter, Earlysville, Va.