The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Term limits can work — if they’re the right length

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) questions Ketanji Brown Jackson during the Supreme Court justice's confirmation hearing on March 22. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

In her April 17 op-ed, “Is Dianne Feinstein still up to the job?,” Ruth Marcus well captured the perennial problem of senators and representatives staying on the job too long, but she glossed over a potential solution when she summarily dismissed term limits and then compounded the problem by not specifying the maximum number of terms she was opposing. If she was referring to the more commonly proposed limit of two Senate terms, she would be correct; 12 years is too short and would only increase the influence of special interests. Alternative limits, however, such as four Senate terms (and House equivalents), would address the actual problem she described: long-serving senators and representatives — Ms. Feinstein (D-Calif.) won election to the Senate 30 years ago — who ignore individual and institutional diminishment and still opt to stay.

The public would be better served if descriptions of congressional term-limit proposals included the number of terms, which could also help shift the debate to the longer limits that merit serious consideration.

Rick LaRue, Silver Spring