Rep. José Serrano of New York has introduced H.J.Res. 15, an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the 22nd amendment.
The 22nd amendment reads:
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.
I’ve been getting a lot of emails about this legislation, many worried that this is a plot to get President Obama a third term in office, but it seems unlikely that (even assuming House Republicans would go along with it) it could pass Congress and be ratified by the requisite number of states to become law in order to grant Obama a third consecutive term.
Besides, these proposed amendments aren’t anything new. According to historian Glenn W. LaFantasie, “”ever since 1985, when Ronald Reagan was serving in his second term as president, there have been repeated attempts to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which limits each president to two terms.” Several Democrat members of Congress – including Rep. Serrano, Rep. Barney Frank, Rep. Howard Berman and Senator Harry Reid – have consistently introduced these resolutions, but none of them have ever made it out of committee.
I doubt very much, that in these polarized times, the fate of this resolution would be any different.
In 1807 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “if some termination to the services of the chief Magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally four years, will in fact become for life.” Some might argue that voters ought to be able to elect who they want, even if that person would be serving his/her third term.
There’s some validity to that argument, but our founders (per Jefferson’s quote) were skeptical of the wisdom of that sort of direct democracy. And, indeed, the impetus for the 22nd amendment was in the four consecutive terms to which Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected. That made Americans fearful of a perpetually-elected tyrant, and thus the constitutional limitation on presidential terms.
It’s a wise check on the power of the executive, and one that’s not likely to be removed any time soon.