“Drain the swamp,” originally a rallying cry for Democrats like Nancy Pelosi as early as 2006, has been a mantra taken up by President Trump during his 2016 campaign. It refers to the idea of getting rid of the corruption and “business as usual” attitude in Washington where nothing gets done, and our congressmen and senators answer to lobbyists and party before constituents.
The Current Swamp
Currently, the U.S. Senate has four senators that have served for at least thirty-five years: Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Senator John McCain (R-UT), has been serving in the U.S. Senate since 1987. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been serving in the Senate since 1985. Don’t mistake this as a Republican problem, however, of the five longest-serving senators, four are Democrats.
Representative John Dingell (D-MI) served in the House for sixty years before finally retiring in 2015. The longest-serving representative currently is John Conyers (D-MI), serving since 1965, almost fifty-three years. Current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has been serving the state of Wisconsin for eighteen years.
Representatives and Senators that make politics their career are dangerous to our government. They get cozy with lobbyists, and their respective party’s fundraising wing ensures that these politicians retain their seats to add additional votes to the party’s agenda. Instead of being responsible to the people they represent, they answer to the calls of party leadership and the money thrown at them by lobbying firms.
After their tenures in office, many politicians go on to work as lobbyists in D.C., making upwards of $1,000,000. Utilizing their connections in Congress and possibly the current administration, former politicians throw their weight behind legislation supported by their firm or do everything in their power to kill it. This behavior in Washington fuels political favors that can come at the expense of the people. Lobbying by special interest groups should be allowed and is an extension of the First Amendment; however, there are needed steps to change the business as usual attitude surrounding the federal government.
“Draining the swamp” will take a long time to accomplish. Adding a constitutional amendment is a viable solution to the problem. State governors and the president are limited by terms, but representatives and senators can essentially hold on to their seat for as long as they please, as incumbents are difficult to defeat. It is time to start holding congressmen to the same standards as the president and governors. That starts with term-limiting representatives and senators with a constitutional amendment. Limiting lobbyists, and making Congress more responsive to the people who elect them would allow more legislation supported by the people.
Representatives and senators need to be term-limited to encourage more young people to get involved with government. There would be less seventy-year-old men who are out of touch with the current sentiments of the future generations. It would bring diversity, new ideas, new possibilities, and much more. The potential for breakthrough moments, like new innovations, new economic prosperity, and expanded freedoms could become reality. But the government needs younger voices with new ideas.