Briefing Paper No. 41

Term Limits and the Republican Congress: The Case Strengthens

By Aaron Steelman
October 28, 1998

Executive Summary

Since they took control of Congress in 1995, Republicans have made minimal progress in changing the way Washington operates. In their first three budgets (fiscal years 1996-98), they increased domestic spending by $183 billion. Moreover, only a small number of the 300 federal programs that were targeted for closure actually have been terminated, and not a single cabinet agency has been eliminated. One of the most significant reasons for the GOP’s failure to tame the budget is that senior Republicans have not lived up to the party’s campaign promises.

This study examines the voting behavior of members of Congress on 31 of the most significant budget, tax, and regulatory issues to arise since 1995. In 27 of the 31 votes analyzed, junior Republicans (who had served 6 years or less in the House and 12 years or less in the Senate) voted for fiscal restraint in greater proportions than senior Republicans (who had served more than 6 years in the House and 12 years in the Senate). These findings suggest that if the public wants Congress to reduce the size and scope of government, term limits may be imperative.

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Aaron Steelman is a former staff writer at the Cato Institute.