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Trib editorial: Capital Hill sexual-harassment allegations may open door to term limits

| Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers (Getty Images North America)
U.S. Rep. John Conyers (Getty Images North America)

Allegations of sexual harassment coming out of Capitol Hill these days — and the mea culpas from the accused — may conceivably lead to the two words most dreaded, if not excoriated, by the all-too-comfortably entrenched in Congress: term limits.

Consider the case of Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., first elected in 1964 and re-elected in 2014 to his 26th term. Former staffers have accused him of sexual harassment. BuzzFeed reported that he settled a wrongful dismissal complaint from a former employee in 2015 for $27,000 in exchange for a confidentiality agreement.

Mr. Conyers, 88, resigned from Congress Tuesday, the first Capitol Hill lawmaker to give up his job amid an unrelenting wave of sexual-misconduct allegations in American workplaces.

Nevertheless, Conyers has managed to remain the longest-serving House member representing the economic disaster that is today's Detroit.

Some “lifers” in Congress argue that their “experience” sets them apart from any newbies who, under term limits, would come and go. In reality, new challengers — and fresh thinkers — typically slam against an almost impermeable wall of incumbency, which allows those behind it to accumulate mounds of cash. In the halls of congressional power, there are few champions for term limits.

Today's highly charged sexual-harassment allegations, however, may pry open the door to a meaningful discussion about this issue, which may actually lead to something positive.

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