February 24, 2020

For House, Senate National Security Committees, Stopgaps for Term Limits

Parties Are Unlikely to Change Term Limits, But There Are Options

By Chris Estep

The primary election season for the next Congress opens officially on March 3, as states from California to Arkansas begin counting votes for candidates vying for seats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. But many ballots will not include the names of dozens of incumbents who have opted not to seek re-election. For some of them, especially Republicans, party-imposed term limits for their committee leadership positions played a key role in their decisions.

Such decisions illustrate how party term limits that have been in effect since the 1990s for committee chairs and ranking members prevent members of Congress from leveraging the full extent of their experience for better oversight, including on committees with jurisdiction over U.S. national security policy. While the two main political parties appear unlikely to change such term limits soon, there are alternatives. Congress should pursue reasonable adjustments to better leverage the experience of their longest-serving members, especially in national security oversight.

President Donald Trump has even entered the debate over term limits for congressional committees. “House Republicans should allow Chairs of Committees to remain for longer than 6 years,” Trump wrote in September. “It forces great people, and real leaders, to leave after serving.”

Read the full article in Just Security.

  • Reports
    • August 5, 2019
    Enhancing Congressional Intelligence Committee Effectiveness

    In a new working paper, Carrie Cordero provides a fresh assessment regarding whether the intelligence committees in Congress need significant structural reforms, assesses whic...

    By Carrie Cordero

  • Video
    • June 24, 2020
    The Pitch: A Competition of New Ideas

    On June 17, 2020, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) hosted its premier event to elevate emerging and diverse voices in national security. Sixteen applicants made t...

    By Richard Fontaine, Michèle Flournoy, Michael J. Zak, Loren DeJonge Schulman, Shai Korman, Carrie Cordero, Kristine Lee, David Zikusoka & Cole Stevens

  • Commentary
    • June 10, 2020
    A Message to the CNAS Community

    Dear Members of the CNAS Community, The protests that have swept across all 50 states call for change that is both modest and monumental. Modest, by condemning the killing of ...

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Commentary
    • Lawfare
    • June 3, 2020
    Department of Homeland Security Law Enforcement Agencies Require Expanded Oversight

    Hundreds of Department of Homeland Security officers have been called up to serve along with other federal law enforcement officers and the National Guard to provide security ...

    By Carrie Cordero

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia