The Term Limits Question

Representative Henry Waxman (D, CA) has announced that he will not seek re-election to the House of Representatives this fall. Waxman represents California's 33rd Congressional District, which includes the western parts of Los Angeles. He was first elected to Congress in 1974. Although he is quitting Congress, Waxman's case provides fodder for the term-limits movement. Although understandable, the idea for limiting the number of terms a Congress member can serve has several flaws. This essay sets forth the backdrop against which the term-limits movement can be viewed, and then explains why the idea is mistaken. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI), California's 33rd Congressional District is safely Democrat (PVI = +12 points Democrat). Waxman's district is illustrative of a growing pattern in the House of Representatives. According to Cook's PVI, there are fewer and fewer "swing," i.e., competitive, seats in the House. Cook defines a "swing" district as one with a...(Read Full Article)