By Ben Dickinson, Guest Writer
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and many of his peers have been on Capitol Hill for seemingly eons to the detriment of their constituents.
As congressmen gain tenure, they become apathetic to the real issues faced by those they represent. They become residents of the proverbial “swamp;” the values they held so dearly during their campaigns and first years in Congress vanish in favor of the doctrine of their superiors. To become a more effective and decisive, active institution, Congress should impose term limits on its own members to preserve its integrity.
Kentucky is known for its rolling hills, its horse-racing pageantry, its smooth bourbon and its biggest-ever contribution to American politics (other than Abraham Lincoln, perhaps): Addison Mitchell McConnell III. The Alabama native and Louisville Kentucky resident has been one of the most prominent figures on the right side of the aisle for my entire life and most of my parents’ lives.
Over his seven terms, McConnell has become the face of the Republican Party in the Senate. He is known as an adept political tactician and is a force to be reckoned with in advancing conservative policy. However, his alignment with political action committees (PACs) and corporate interests has drawn him away from adequate support of the state that he represents a state that is relatively impoverished and in need of an advocate with true power.
For example, at the beginning of McConnell’s tenure in the Senate, he was an advocate for affordable health care.
In 1990, McConnell released a television ad flaunting his introduction of a bill that would provide “healthcare that is available to all Kentucky families, hold down skyrocketing costs and provide long-term care.” This bill, the Comprehensive American Health Care Act, was never voted on.
Fast forward to 2017 when McConnell desperately attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. As of July 2022, according to Louise Norris of healthinsurance.org, about 1.6 million Kentuckians rely on Medicaid, which is now newly accessible to a plethora of Kentuckians due to the Affordable Care Act.
In a state where roughly 36% of the population relies on the Affordable Care Act for basic healthcare, it would be nothing but logical for McConnell to maintain his original pro-affordable health care stance.
There is a certain correlation between McConnell’s recent opposition to government-subsidized healthcare and the abundant donations he has received from Kindred Healthcare and Humana, two Louisville-based healthcare heavyweights. These two companies, along with health insurance provider and McConnell donor BlueCross/BlueShield, support the repeal of the Affordable care Act due to the new standards health insurance companies and healthcare providers are held to in order to provide healthcare at a reasonable cost for all.These companies would generate more revenue if the Affordable Care Act were to be repealed.
Despite McConnell’s personal views on healthcare, the hundreds of thousands of dollars he has received from the aforementioned healthcare companies assist him in not only his own re-election campaigns, but also in support of campaigns that are key to the success of the Republican Party on federal, state and local levels.
According to Paul Loftus in an article for the Louisville Courier-Journal, McConnell spent 65% of his 2018 donations on campaign contributions to fellow Republicans; this included more than $300,000 to help get Republicans elected in the 2018 Kentucky General Assembly election.
This willingness to vote based on corporate interest in order to fund election campaigns shows a certain level of audacity from McConnell –– one shared by many of the other multi-term incumbents in Congress. Incumbents have many electoral advantages, including reliable funding, name recognition and backing from their party. This should give them a sense of comfort in voting based on their values- or at least the ones they ran upon. However, congressmen tend to become increasingly hyper-focused on their, re-election and their parties control of their chamber as their time in Washington passes.
In an interview with 60 Minutes in April 2016, Congressman David Jolly (R-Fla.) attested that he was told he was to raise “$18,000 per day,” for his Senate race and that it would cost a minimum of “$100 million” to win the race.
Jolly later went on to state, “Members of Congress spend too much time raising money and not enough time doing their job.”
The job Jolly refers to is passing legislation that genuinely represents the interest of their constituents — not constant pursuit of funding to please their party superiors.
Former Congressman Rick Nolan (D, Minn) once stated that political fundraising quotas are “discouraging good people from running for office. I can give you names of people who would like to go to Washington and help fix the problems, but don’t want to go to DC to become a mid-level telemarketer dialing for dollars.”
Representing both Minnesota’s sixth and eighth district during two separate tenures in Congress, Nolan served a total of six terms in the House of Representatives.
A six-term limit for the House and two-term limit for the Senate was proposed in House Report 104.67 in March of 1995. These limits never became law but did exhibit the growing support for term-limits, even among those in Congress.
There are many viable options for a beneficial standard of how many limits a congressman can serve; regardless of the amount of terms, term limits in Congress will shift the focus from fundraising and onto good-will legislative initiatives. As long as those on the Hill are focused constantly on re-election, Congress will continue to become more partisan and ineffective.
Term limits will draw more legislators seeking to make genuine, positive change into office, and will help cleanse our elections of corporate wealth.