Too many dinosaurs in Washington D.C.

Apr 19 2013 - 12:36pm


Recently Senator Orrin Hatch was interviewed on TV and asked about attending a banquet for several members of Congress hosted by President Obama at the White House. This little party cost about a weeks' worth of cancelled White House tours; priorities? 

Senator Hatch commented that the president was charming, nice, and personable and called each guest by his or her first name. If there was anything of substance discussed at the meeting Hatch wasn't saying; he did mention that he was the senior congressional member at the dinner with 37 years in the Senate. 

You could practically hear the sudden intake of air in some sections of Salt Lake and Weber counties caused by Coffee Party folks gasping for breath in outrage at the "old dinosaur" of the Utah GOP. Senator Hatch will chalk up 42 years at the end of his current term which he says will be his last. 

Those criticizing long termers have bigger fish to fry than Senator Hatch; he's only number 14 on the list of the 25 longest served in the Senate. He's topped by names like Patrick Leahy, Ted Kennedy, Daniel Inouye; even VP Joe Biden had 34 years before his current gig; he'll have 42 years in Washington when his term expires. 

In the 20th and 21st century some 102 senators have served 36 years or more; there were none in the 19th century. Apparently a career in Congress has only become attractive since 1900. Democrats hold 17 of the 25 top longevity spots and 8 of the top 10 spots in the Senate.

In the House of Representatives, Democrats hold 5 of the 8 tops spots on the longevity list. Representative John Dingell, Democrat, has served 57 years and counting. We might want to ask ourselves -- are members of Congress being rewarded for their great service in being re-elected again and again? 

Possibly; more likely though it's a result of the system that has evolved, specifically the seniority system which grants more power to members the longer they stay. And there is the power of incumbency which puts challengers at a great disadvantage.

It seems impossible that a Representative with 50-plus years in the House who has faced re-election more than 25 times is the most capable person in the district to serve the people best. Yet, this is how the current system works. 

You can make a solid argument that much or our stalemate in Washington is a result of too many "dinosaurs" in Congress. The pot needs to be stirred more for a better result; the country is not being served well with the current mix of ideas and initiatives.

A joint resolution was studied in congress in 1997 that would limit terms of representatives and senators. After duly kicking the can around they decided that they didn't need "no stinking term limits." Seems several states had passed laws limiting the number of terms their representative in Washington could serve. It was found that only the federal government had the power to do this. Yet, the people of a state vote for their representatives to represent the interest of their state and ought to have the power to limit the terms of those representing them. 

Obviously, the ballot box doesn't work because of the system that the folks in Washington have developed i.e. seniority system and power of incumbency.

A U.S. representative from New York state, Democrat Jose Serrano has introduced a Resolution, H.J.Res. 5, to abolish the 22nd Amendment which limits our president to two terms; if approved this would pave the way for a third (or more) term for Obama. I wonder if this is how socialist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela got his start. I'd give this resolution a "snow balls" chance in July but then too many people just can't get enough of Obama; another example of dinosaur thinking from our nation's capital.

Kids love to play with toy dinosaurs and we all have our inner paleontologist and are curious about creatures that roamed the earth eons ago. 

We simply can't afford them in Washington as our national debt and budget crisis attest to.

Reynolds lives in Pleasant View.


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