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Bartlett pushes for four-year terms for U.S. representatives

July 29, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is backing the idea of four-year terms for members of Congress in order to limit the time and money spent campaigning.

"I've been concerned ever since I've been in Congress that there's far too much pressure for campaigning and it really distracts from legislating and the work we're supposed to do," said Bartlett, R-Md.

Bartlett admits that the proposal is a long shot since it would require a constitutional amendment.

But he said he wanted to get people outside the Beltway talking about the issue by signing on to a House resolution proposed by U.S. Rep. Charles W. Stenholm, D-Texas.

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The resolution first would need to be approved by two-thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives. It then would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the states, said Bartlett spokeswoman Lisa Wright.

Congress usually requires ratification to be made within seven years, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

According to the proposal, members of Congress would serve one two-year term and two four-year terms in each decade.

Bartlett, 77, said the proposal is one way to curb the influence that money plays in the legislative process.

In addition, it would allow lawmakers to vote their consciences rather than be concerned about how their vote will affect their re-election, he said.

"In the back of your mind always is, 'Will it get me re-elected or what will my constituents think,'" he said. "I think your primary focus should be what's good for your country and good for your children and grandchildren."

Bartlett was elected to his sixth term last year.

The framers of the Constitution set up two-year terms to ensure that elected officials would stay in touch with their often far-flung constituents.

But in today's high-tech world that is becoming a moot issue, he said.

"I'm not sure what our Founding Fathers would think, but I'm sure they would be appalled by the money chase," he said.

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