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.

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