CMR and Term Limits

Dear Group, 

On Good Friday at Centerplace, McMorris Rodgers was asked about term limits. The question brought to mind the attack George Nethercutt unleashed on Tom Foley in 1994 when Foley argued honestly against term limits. At the time Nethercutt’s argument resonated as part of a national drumbeat against incumbent politicians. Four years later, after Nethercutt’s first two terms, he had a change of heart and ran again, a term beyond the limit he had promoted. The power of incumbency and the fading of the term limit argument allowed him to remain in office.

Like so many issues that make convenient sound bites in one argument and inconvenient sound bites in another (State’s Rights comes to mind), the term limit issue requires careful deployment. 

McMorris Rodgers’ answer? She’s against mandatory term limits for Representatives. No surprise there. I agree with her. I even agree with the bulk of her argument. In four years (two two-year terms) a typical Representative is likely to have barely figured out the job. When new Representatives go to Washington, D.C. they need to establish relationships, learn the personalities, figure out who does what. After McMorris Rodgers’ thirteen and a half years in office she feels she is just hitting her stride. 

The Congressional Representative does not go to D.C. and work alone. There is staff to hire and manage. These offices are small beehives swarming with people, some from the home district and some who have been enmeshed in the D.C. social and legislative machine for years. Between the D.C. and home district offices the Representative hires (with taxpayer money), interacts with, and is influenced and nurtured by around twenty worker bees. (For a look at CMR’s operation visit my post on the “Member’s Representational Allowance.”)

The Representative’s office personnel doesn’t count the swarm of well-paid career lobbyists circulating through their offices, forming relationships and interacting with the staff. For a recent and pertinent example of how Congressional staff rolls from a Representative’s service to the service of the lobbyists with whom they’ve formed relationships visit my post “M Perez And CMR” detailing Megan Perez’ migration to the Petrizzo Group and possibly to the service of the Petrizzo Group’s client Omeros. 

In sum, it takes time for a Representative to establish a foothold. For a Representative to continue to serve their District and not become a cog in the D.C. machine requires qualities of diligence, intelligence, integrity and exceptional skill in choosing staff.

McMorris Rodgers has become a cog in the machine. She has joined the club. On a broad scale she functions as the message spreading and crafting maven of the Republican machine. She knows no other voice. She cheerleads the Tax Bill, the Repeal of the Individual Mandate, and oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge with no hint of nuance or substantive, reasoned argument. Hers are polished one-liners and short memorized paragraphs. “Never stray from the canned message” could be her motto. On a smaller scale she has succumbed to the siren song of the lobbyists. She defends an expensive perk to small Seattle drug company with a big lobbying budget by chanting that their obscure pupillary dilator (“Omidria”) as an example of “innovative, life-changing drugs,” something it certainly is not. See A Nice Business Perk With Your Omnibus Spending Bill, Sir?

I find myself in unusual agreement with McMorris Rodgers on the subject of mandatory Term Limits. Longevity in Congress can have value for the home district, but only if the Representative is not mostly or wholly subsumed by the ideology of the national Party and the lobbying machine of the District of Columbia. McMorris Rodgers fails on both counts. 

Keep to the High Ground,