Freshman Va Congressman pushes term limits

Published: May. 6, 2019 at 9:10 AM CDT
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Freshman lawmaker – Congressman Denver Riggleman – is pushing to limit how many times members of Congress can run for re-election. He says shaking up the system could create a more fair representation on Capitol Hill. Washington Correspondent Alana Austin explains his cause, and why some critics think good intentions could back-fire.

The latest Gallup poll shows 77% of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job. One Virginia Congressman pitches a plan to clean up things in Washington.

“It's very difficult because you have entrenched politicians who want things to stay the same…” explains Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA).

The first-term Republican Congressman wants to put in place term limits on Capitol Hill. It would apply to himself and his fellow lawmakers.

He’s backing a bill that would move forward with a constitutional amendment, so members of the U.S. House of Representatives can only serve three, two-year terms. Senators would have to leave office after two, six-year terms.

“This is an uphill battle and you don’t want to do something symbolic, you want to do something meaningful and if it draws attention to those to get involved….so other people can serve, I think it’s a victory,” said Riggleman.

While Riggleman says the effort could encourage more transparency and accountability in DC, George Washington University’s Steve Billet – a former lobbyist – says the intentions of this may be pure, but he thinks ultimately it empowers outside influences.

“Lobbyists would feed on this kind of a Congress, with all of these rookies around…Congress would be easy pickings for the lobbyists,” explained Billet, who is now the director of legislative affairs at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management.

Critics also say there already is a check on Congress: having to face re-election. Billet points out experienced legislators can also be a powerful voice for under-served communities, and key experts on certain issues. In his view, term limits could remove forceful advocates from the public.

“I’m not so sure this is a great idea all the way around. It’s certainly something worth examining,” said Billet.

Right now, the proposal only has a small fraction of the support it would need to get through Congress, and 38 states would need to sign on as well.

Riggleman adds he does not plan on staying in Congress as a career politician – but he does intend to seek a second term when he’s up for re-election in 2020.

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