Do We Want a 'Lame Duck' Congress?

Thank you for the opinion-page piece "Needed: A Congress of Lame Ducks," Nov. 1. I would like to rebut the idea that term limits are undemocratic. Those who make this argument seem happy with the 22nd amendment which limits presidential terms. If we support this amendment, then we should have amendments to limit legislative and judicial terms.The fatal flaw in Ballot Initiative 553, which narrowly lost in Washington State Nov. 5, was its retroactive provision. The prospect of throwing out the state's entire congressional delegation by 1994 dissuaded some would-be supporters. Jim Hastings, Boston

The article's author comments that some of the delegates to the 1787 constitutional convention supported term limits. But the fact is the Constitution they gave us does not contain term limitation provisions, so most of the delegates must not have favored them. Elected officials, even the congressional leadership, are just that - elected! The people can limit terms by the vote. Our Founding Fathers knew that an educated electorate could decide for themselves when an elected official had expired his usefulness. The author also presents the idea that congressmen will "concentrate on policy, not the demands of a career or the opinions of special interests" once they become lame ducks. While there are good statesmen, there are also self-serving politicians. Once these politicians are no longer held accountable for their actions, they will be more likely to engage in shady deals. Leo J. Krajewski, Lower Burrell, Pa.

The article on term limitations for members of Congress is one of the most cogent I have read on this topic. There is one error, however. Roger Sherman was a delegate to the Federal Convention - to use the term of 1787. He represented Connecticut, not Rhode Island. The latter state sent no delegates and was the last of the original 13 states to ratify the Constitution. It did so, reluctantly, in November of 1790 - well into President Washington's second year in office. David Moon Berlin, Heights, Ohio

The piece ignores the problem with a measure as drastic as term limitation. State-imposed term limitations would only exacerbate the ineffectiveness of Congress by further diminishing the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches and by upsetting the balance of power between the states. Much popular discontent with Congress is due to its growing weakness relative to the executive branch. Term limitations will do nothing to restore Congress' strength and leadership. To the contrary, a president will be even more likely to run rough-shod over junior legislators than over highly experienced congressmen. A state's residents may want to enact limitations as a way of removing other states' congressmen who they find objectionable. Placing term limitations on a state's own representatives, however, will not put a cap on the power of other states' representatives. Opportunistic states will cheer on their neighbors to pass such legislation, but will not do the same. I'm not an advocate of term limitations. There is no substitute for voter responsibility. But if popular support is great enough to enact such a measure, it should be enacted nationwide. Emily Sims, Des Moines

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