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6 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 767 (1997-1998)
The Impact of Term Limits on the Congressional Committee System

handle is hein.journals/gmlr6 and id is 781 raw text is: 1998]

Adrianne G. Threatd
In recent years, pointing out the problems plaguing the United States
Congress and offering reform proposals has become a national pastime.
Term limits have been prevalent in the public debate over how to improve
the performance of Congress.' The topic also has been a reform proposal
of particular interest because state legislatures,2 the United States Con-
gress,3 and state and federal courts4 have all addressed the issue over the
last seven years.
In the 1990s, many states passed laws to limit the terms of their own
senators and representatives; other states had term limit movements that
failed only narrowly.' Although in 1995 the Supreme Court ruled in U.S.
Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton6 that the only legal way to implement
 Graduate of Duke University and the Georgetown University Law Center, attorney in private
practice. I am grateful to my classmates in the 1995-96 John M. Olin Workshop in Law and Economics
at the Georgetown University Law Center for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this
paper. I am also indebted to the course instructors, Warren Schwartz and Avery Katz, for their
guidance and encouragement at every stage of this paper's development.
' A 1995 poll indicates that 73 percent of Americans support term limits for members of
Congress. See Robert D. Novak, Term Limits: The Will of the People?, SAN DIEGO UNION- TRIBUNE,
Aug. 31, 1995, at Bll. A 1991 poll shows 75 percent of Americans favor term limits. See John H.
Fund, Liberals for Term Limits, WALL ST. J., Nov. 6, 1991, at A18. For a general discussion of term
limits as a solution to government's problems, see ROGER E. MEwERS & ROGER LEROY MiLLER,
' Some state laws were direct limitations on the number of terms a congressman or Senator could
serve. See, e.g., COLO. CONST. art. XVIIl, § 9a; MICH. CONST. art. II, § 10; Otuo CONST. art. V, § 8.
Other states effectively imposed term limits by allowing long-serving incumbents to run only as write-
in candidates; such laws are sometimes referred to as ballot-access measures. See, e.g., ARK. CONST.
amend. 63, § 3; CAL. ELECT. CODE § 8700 (West 1996); MASS. GEN. LAWS ANN. ch. 53, § 48 (West
' A term limits measure was part of the House Republicans' Contract With America. See
Jackie Calmes, Even With New GOP Majorities in Both Houses, Term Limits Face Likely Doom in
Next Congress, WALL. ST. J., Nov. 28, 1994, at A20. A proposed constitutional amendment to add
term limits to Congress was defeated by the House of Representatives. See Phil Kuntz, Congress Shows
No Inclination Toward Reform, WALL. ST. J., Aug. 11, 1995, at A6.
4 See U.S. Term Limits Inc. v. Thorton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995).
' Between 1990 and 1994, 21 states adopted congressional term limits. See Jeffrey Karp.
Explaining Public Support for Term Limits, 59 PuB. OP. Q. 373 (1995). By May 1995, the total had
risen to 23 states. See VICTOR KAMBER, GiVING UP ON DEMOCRACY 41 (1995). See supra note 2 for
examples of state term limit laws which have passed.
6 514 U.S. 779. For further discussion of state court decisions and the constitutionality of term

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