There is no doubt that this current spendthrift Republican Congress should be tamed. But how? The president, for all his great points, will not veto a single appropriation and does not serve as a brake on spending. Ive been a congressional staffer myself, working for ambitious Congressmen, and I know the temptation after you move to Washington is to stay thereand to stay there you have to play the appropriations game.
The answer, I think, is to encourage Republican candidates to voluntarily embrace term limits. And to see that they observe them. The most unique public servant Ive met in at least 20 years is Tom Coburn, now the U. S. Senator from Oklahoma. Youve heard of him, Im sure. Hes a medical doctor, a obstetrician. He ran for the House and was elected pledging to serve three terms. Which he did. Knowing that he would only serve three terms, Tom did things with appropriations that for a normal careerist would seem foolhardy: and it was.
A Republican, he challenged Newt on appropriations and angered Denny Hastert but proved himself an invaluable player. He took time off back in Oklahoma and then ran for the Senate with a two-term limit. He was elected. You saw Tom on the floor of the Senate not long ago seeking to cut appropriations including the infamous Bridge to Nowhere which outraged Alaskas Ted Stevens, the chairman of Appropriations. The Bridge was cut. But Coburns brilliance of execution convinced me (and I was a doubter of term limits) that increasingly Republicans should reward those who apply it. It doesnt have to be in the form of a Constitutional amendment or even a policy rule in the Congress (it wouldnt get through in any rate). But just as good would be its voluntary application by those seeking office.
Im not sure but I think the only Republican running for Congress in Illinois pledging term limits is Dave McSweeney in the 8th. One Republican who ran supporting term limits and who reneged is John Shimkus. Breaking your word and deciding to become a careerist when you promised not to is, well, a breach of contract. Republicans ought to put pressure on federal candidates for term limits. Knowing you will not be a lifer will make you more courageous in Congress. Speaking of Tom Coburn, Im seriously thinking of starting a move to convince him to run for president (where two terms are all one gets).