Republican Congressman Tom Marino recently introduced two bills to reform Washington.
The first bill, H.R. 2113, the One Subject at a Time Act, would require that bills embrace only one subject, that the subject be clearly displayed in the bill title, and prohibit appropriations bills from including hidden general legislation. If a bill like this were in place, Obamacare would have been impossible.
The second bill, H.J. Res 48, amends the U.S. Constitution to prohibit U.S. Senators from serving more than two consecutive terms (12 Years) and prohibits members of the U.S. House of Representatives from serving more than six consecutive terms (12 years.)
Term limits are an interesting subject. When the founders designed our Constitution, U.S. Senators were not elected by the general public. Instead, they were elected by the state legislatures as expressed in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution changed that, making them directly elected by the people.
Members of Congress have always been directly elected by the public. The real difference is in the expectations of service. As a member of the House, it was understood that you were there for service to the people. The founders designed it so that average, every day people would give up some of their time to serve in Congress and then return to their regular business.
No doubt to reinforce temporary service, they were barely paid anything. For nearly the first 70 years, members of the House of Representatives received a $6 per day payment that was designed to cover their expenses. In 1855, that changed to a flat $3,000 per year. Today, they make $174,000 per year plus benefits. Contrast that with the median household income in the U.S., which is around $50,000 per year.
In short, congress wasn't supposed to be a career.
Marino’s One Subject at a Time Act deserves passage. This bill is a common sense bill that will improve government transparency.
Politicians becoming entrenched is a problem at every level of government and Marino’s amendment might get help fix that. But, it won’t truly deal with the problem.
Deviation from the Constitution and the spirit of original intent is what caused the problems in Washington that Marino is trying to address. Rather than limiting the terms of politicians, a better bill would merely adjust the salary a politician may receive to the median household income in the U.S. during the year in which they were elected. This would do three things: first, it would right-size the salary of Senators and Representatives to better reflect the annual income of their constituents; second, it would make it difficult for members of Congress to make a career out of being a member of Congress because the money just wouldn't be there to do it; and third, it would force representatives to focus on bettering the economic prosperity of this country.