Skip Nav

Sorry, Mr. President: Term limits for Congress are still not going to happen

Matters of Debate

❶Bitter Senate fight to confirm Kavanaugh plunges deeper into chaos over letter. President Roosevelt ran for and was elected to a third term in and then a fourth in

Sign up for our email newsletter

Should there be term limits for members of Congress and the Supreme Court?
Navigation menu
Twenty-Second Amendment

Supreme Court overturned congressional term limits in U. Thornton , ruling that state governments cannot limit the terms of members of the national government.

Where rotation in the legislative branch has withstood court challenges, term limits continue to garner popular support.

As of , the advocacy group " U. Term Limits " found that in the 17 states where state legislators served in rotation, public support for term limits ranged from 60 to 78 percent. As of , term limits at the federal level are restricted to the executive branch and some agencies. Judicial appointments at the federal level are made for life, and are not subject to election or to term limits.

Congress remains since the Thornton decision of without electoral limits. The short-lived Confederate States of America adopted a six-year term for their president and vice-president and barred the president from seeking re-election. That innovation was endorsed by many American politicians after the American Civil War , most notably by Rutherford B.

Hayes in his inaugural address. Roosevelt president, — was the first and only U. He died in office a few months after starting his fourth term.

This gave rise to a successful move in Congress to formalize the traditional two-term limit by amending the U. As ratified in , the Twenty-Second Amendment provides that "no person shall be elected to the office of President more than twice". Reformers during the early s used the initiative and referendum to put congressional term limits on the ballot in 24 states. Voters in eight of these states approved the congressional term limits by an average electoral margin of two to one.

In May , the U. Supreme Court ruled 5—4 in U. Thornton , U. In the elections, part of the Republican platform included legislation for term limits in Congress.

After winning the majority, a Republican congressman brought a constitutional amendment to the House floor that proposed limiting members of the Senate to two six-year terms and members of the House to six two-year terms.

Term Limits , the largest private organization pushing for congressional term limits. Defeated in Congress and overridden by the Supreme Court, the federal term limit uprising was brought to a halt. The term limits intended simultaneously to reform state legislatures as distinguished from the federal congressional delegations remain in force, however, in fifteen states.

In Larry J. Sabato revived the debate over term limits by arguing in A More Perfect Constitution that the success and popularity of term limits at the state level suggests that they should be adopted at the federal level as well. He specifically put forth the idea of congressional term limits and suggested a national constitutional convention be used to accomplish the amendment, since the Congress would be unlikely to propose and adopt any amendment that limits its own power.

Some state legislators have also expressed their opinions on term limits. It is confirmed that in the following five states—and there may be others—state lawmakers approved resolutions asking Congress to propose a federal constitutional amendment to limit the number of terms which members of Congress may serve:. Legal scholars have discussed whether or not to impose term limits on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Currently, Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life "during good behavior". A sentiment has developed, among certain scholars, that the Supreme Court may not be accountable in a way that is most in line with the spirit of checks and balances. Calebresi and James Lindgren, professors of law at Northwestern University, argued that, because vacancies in the court are occurring with less frequency and justices served on average, between and , for Many of the proposals center around a term limit for Justices that would be 18 years Larry Sabato, Professor of Political Science at University of Virginia, suggested between 15 and 18 years.

Calebresi, Lingren, and Carrington have also proposed that when justices have served out their proposed year term they should be able to sit on other Federal Courts until retirement, death, or removal. Some state lawmakers have officially expressed to Congress a desire for a federal constitutional amendment to limit terms of Supreme Court justices as well as of judges of federal courts below the Supreme Court level.

While there might be others, below are three known examples:. Term limits for state officials have existed since colonial times. The Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties of , and the colonial frame of government of the same year, both authored by William Penn , provided for triennial rotation of the provincial council —the upper house of the colonial legislature.

At present, 36 states have term limits of various types for their governors. To circumvent the term limit in Alabama incumbent governor George Wallace pushed through the nomination of his wife Lurleen , in the Democratic primary, which was, in those days, the real contest in Alabama.

It was generally understood that Mrs. Wallace would only be a titular governor while her husband continued to hold the real power. She won the election, but only served 16 months before dying in As indicated above, in fifteen state legislatures the members serve in rotation, i. In another six states, however, state legislatures have either overturned their own limits or state supreme courts have ruled such limits unconstitutional.

In the Idaho Legislature became the first legislature of its kind to repeal its own term limits, enacted by a public vote in , ostensibly because it applied to local officials along with the legislature. Governors of 36 states and four territories are subject to various term limits, while the governors of 14 states, Puerto Rico , and the Mayor of Washington, D.

Each state's gubernatorial term limits are prescribed by its state constitution , with the exception of Wyoming , whose limits are found in its statutes. Virgin Islands , and by statute in American Samoa. Unique in its restriction, Virginia prohibits its governors from succeeding themselves for a second term, although former governors are reeligible after four years out of office.

The governors of the following states and territories are limited to two consecutive terms, but are reeligible after four years out of office: Conversely, the Governors of Montana [68] and Wyoming [69] are restricted to two terms, limited to serving 8 out of any 16 years. Finally, the governors of the following states and territory are absolutely limited for life to two terms: The governors of New Hampshire and Vermont may serve unlimited two-year terms.

The governors or equivalent in the following states, district, and territory may serve unlimited four-year terms: The Governor of Utah was previously limited to serving three terms, but all term limit laws have since been repealed by the legislature. Some local governments have term limits. In Philadelphia , the mayor cannot be elected three consecutive times, but there is no limit on how long any individual can serve as mayor. Frank Rizzo was elected mayor in and ; he attempted to repeal the term limit, but failed and could not run in He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for mayor in but he lost to Wilson Goode.

In , he switched to the Republican Party, and ran as a Republican in the mayoral elections of and Limits vary from city to city even within the same state.

For example, Houston , Texas , has a limit of 2 four-year terms prior to November 3, , 3 two-year terms dating back to , while San Antonio , Texas, has a limit of 4 two-year terms. Both Houston and San Antonio's term limits are absolute; elected officeholders are ineligible to run for the same position where seeking higher office is common. On November 3, , however, when Michael Bloomberg was in his second term of mayor , the City Council approved the extension of the two-term limit to a three-term limit; one year later, he was elected to a third term.

The two-term limit was reinstated after a referendum in In Los Angeles the mayor serves up to two four-year terms since , while the City Council serve up to three four-year terms. In Cincinnati , Ohio , the term limit for mayor is two successive four-year terms. Council members are limited to two successive four-year terms. There is no limit to total terms that may be served, just a limit on successive terms. In New Orleans , City Council members are limited to two four-year terms.

However, a council member representing one of the five council districts may run for one of the two at-large seats on the council once they reach the two-term limit, and vice versa. There is no limit on the number of terms a council member may serve in a lifetime.

Since , the mayor of New Orleans has been limited to two consecutive four-year elected terms, but he or she may be elected again after sitting out one four-year term. When the new city plan of government was adopted, the mayor at the time, DeLesseps Story Morrison , was exempt from term limits due to a grandfather clause. Under the original Metropolitan Charter adopted in , the mayor of Nashville was limited to three consecutive four-year terms, which was subsequently reduced to two consecutive four-year terms in Councilors were likewise limited to two consecutive four-year terms, but subsequent court rulings have determined the offices of district councilor and at-large councilor to be separate offices even though all councilors serve together in one unicameral body, which has meant that at large councilors have continued in office as district members, and more frequently district councilors have been elected to subsequent terms as at large councilors.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Constitution of the United States Law Taxation. Presidential elections Midterm elections Off-year elections.

Democratic Republican Third parties. This section has an unclear citation style. The references used may be made clearer with a different or consistent style of citation and footnoting.

February Learn how and when to remove this template message. Comparison of State Governments. No limit, two-year terms. One; reeligible after four years. Two; reeligible after four years. Two; eligible 8 out of 12 years. Two; eligible 8 out of 16 years. Fagan, Penn State University No such position existed under the Articles of Confederation, with Congress instead wielding both legislative and executive powers.

Surprisingly, many of the Framers—including Hamilton and Madison—supported a lifetime appointment for presidents selected by Congress and not elected by the people.

But then could they be re-elected, or would they be term-limited? What they wanted, until the very end of their Convention, was a President appointed by Congress who could run again.

But in that case, warned Gouverneur Morris, presidential candidates would make corrupt bargains with Congress to get re-elected.

Term-limit amendments were proposed each year, but never adopted. Why bother, if the convention worked so well? The crisis of the Second World War was exactly the kind of exception that justified a departure from the term limits convention.

President Roosevelt ran for and was elected to a third term in and then a fourth in The war over, the British returned to their convention. In the years since, presidents of both parties—Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, to name just two—lamented that they could not run for a third term.

Presidential term-limits are now a constitutional requirement. But should they be? Would it be better to rely on convention, as the British do, to give ourselves the flexibility needed in an emergency? Or without the constitutional requirement, would presidents today often seek third terms and perhaps more , quickly putting an end to the two-term convention and raising again.

The Twenty-Second Amendment limits a President to no more than eight years in office. It is hard to have strong feelings about the Twenty-Second Amendment. Much of the debate over presidential term limits is speculative, with little real evidence of their effect and arguments pro-and-con in equipoise.

Thirty years later, an embarrassed Madison tried to explain away what might have seemed like monarchism to his new political allies, but his opposition to term limits in was likely sincere. Before he was reappointed to a second term, a President would trade favors with Congressmen. That was their way around the need for term limits. Something else had changed. What that was, of course, was the enormous growth in the size of government, the concentration of political power in Washington, and within Washington in the presidency.

Today American presidents wield almost absolute power, and that almost corrupts absolutely, to paraphrase Lord Acton. This in turn explains why term limits commend themselves in America, but not in Britain or Canada.

The rigors of parliamentary debate, and the threat of non-confidence motions, are themselves a form of term limits, and recent presidents and prime ministers in America, Britain, and Canada have on average all served about the same five-year term. For parliamentary leaders, time has seemingly accelerated, with a burn out rate coming more quickly today than in the time of Pitt the Younger 18 years or Sir John A. The Great Books people used to produce a yearly supplement with essays on all of the best and brightest ideas of the day.

Term limits helps prevent that from happening. And shall I die, and this unconquered, says the dying Tamburlaine. We might want to live as long as Methuselah, but all our medical research has made only a little difference in our lifespan, and were it otherwise we might still be talking about Walter Pater and the aesthetic movement. If only la jeunesse savait , we complain. Buckley, The Once and Future King: Buckley, The Republic of Virtue: The convention of two-term presidencies that long-predated the Amendment complicates any effort to assess the measure.

On balance, enacting the Twenty-Second Amendment may well have been a mistake, but repealing it now would be worse.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Term limits in the Constitution In He specifically put forth the idea of congressional term limits and suggested a national constitutional convention be used to accomplish the amendment, since the Congress would be unlikely to propose and adopt any amendment that limits its own power.

Privacy FAQs

Term Limits and the Constitution. The Founding Fathers - the people who wrote the Constitution - did, in fact, consider and reject the idea of congressional term limits. In Federalist Papers No. 53, James Madison, father of the Constitution, explained why the Constitutional Convention of .

About Our Ads

Heretofore, federal term limit discussions have focused on proposals which require amending the Constitution. These well-intentioned efforts, in the form of at least 12 bills in the current session of Congress, with over 90 co-sponsors, are stymied by the arduous process of amending the Constitution. From time to time, the idea of putting term limits on Congressmen comes up. The most recent example is legislation that was introduced by Congressman Francis Rooney (R-FL). He proposed legislation that is designed to effectively impose term limits without having to amend the Constitution by cutting.

Cookie Info

Given Congress’s conflict of interest, therefore, term limits supporters are also pursuing the second course that Article V authorizes: “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of. Watch video · That means that for congressional term limits to become legal again, Congress would have to amend the Constitution. Trump proposed a constitutional amendment during the campaign, and one member of.