Even with no term limits, change continues in the halls of Congress

Ten months before the November mid-term elections in Congress, it’s already assured that the U.S. House will see a double digit change in membership for the new Congress which begins in January 2019 – that would be the seventh straight election cycle for such turnover, as the 2018 mid-terms will bring yet another infusion of new blood to the U.S. Capitol.

This past week, three members of the House and one Senator – all Republicans – decided against re-election bids in 2018. Three of them decided to retire from politics; one will run for Governor.

“Every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. And for me, that time is soon approaching,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

First elected in 1976, and now 83 years old, Hatch is basically a poster boy for those who want a Constitutional amendment requiring term limits on members of the House and Senate – but in fact, Hatch is a rarity when it comes to how long lawmakers make Congress their career.

How many current members in Congress have been serving for 40 years or more? Some people think it’s a big number.

Quick – make a guess.

Other than Hatch, there is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), first elected to the Senate in 1974, and Rep. Don Young (R-AK), first elected to the House in 1973.

And that’s it.

Okay, well there must be a lot of people who have been in the Congress for 30 years or more, then?

14 current House members have served for more than 30 years, but fewer than 40 years. In the Senate, it’s a total of five.

Let’s try the number of lawmakers who have served between 20 and 30 years.

In the Senate, there are 9 such Senators. In the House, there are 54 members (12 percent) who are in the over-20-but-under-30-year club.

24 Senators have served for between 10 and 20 years. 89 House members (20 percent) have been in office in the over-10-but-not-more-than-20-year club.

Now here comes the figures which really show the amount of change in recent years on Capitol Hill:

59 of 100 Senators have been in the Senate for less than 10 years, well over half of that body.

277 House members have been in the House for less than 10 years. That’s almost 64 percent.

For those who advocate term limits, those numbers of newer members should be much higher, as many want a plan which would limit Senate service to two terms (12 years), and three terms in the House (six years).

In order to make that change, Congress would have to approve an amendment to the Constitution – that needs a two-thirds vote – and then three-fourths of the states would need to approve it as well.

That seems unlikely at this point.

But even without term limits, a lot of change keeps coming to the Congress. Probably more than you think.

 

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