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Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution establishes a two-term limit for the Presidency. Congress proposed the Amendment on March 21, 1947. It was ratified by the requisite number of states on February 27, 1951.
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. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress..
George Washington, the first President of the United States, is often said to have established the tradition of limiting service as President to two terms only. His Farewell Address, however, suggests that it was because of his age that he did not seek re-election. More accurately, one may suggest that Thomas Jefferson established the convention of a two-term limit; he noted, "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". Jefferson’s immediate successors, James Madison and James Monroe, also adhered to the two-term principle.
Few Presidents attempted to serve for more than two terms. Ulysses S. Grant sought a third term in office after serving from 1869 to 1877, but his party failed to nominate him. Theodore Roosevelt, who served from 1901 to 1909, sought to be elected in 1912 (non-consecutively) for a second time—he had succeeded to the presidency on William McKinley's assassination and already been elected in 1904 to a full term himself—but he lost to Woodrow Wilson. In 1940 Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first person to be elected President three times, with supporters citing the war in Europe as a reason for breaking with precedent. In the 1944 election, during World War II, he won a fourth term, but died in office the following year.
After Franklin Roosevelt's death, many desired to establish a firm constitutional provision barring presidents from being elected more than twice. The rationale was a concern that without limits, the presidential position could become too similar to that of a benevolent dictator lasting not just four years but a lifetime, that the position could become too powerful and upset the separation of powers, and even so powerful that elections would become dispensable. Hence, the Twenty-second Amendment was adopted.
Under the amendment, no person may be elected president more than twice. Furthermore, no vice president or other person who has succeeded to the presidency, and served as president or acting president for more than two years, may be elected president more than once. Consequently, the amendment, while limiting a person to two elected four-year terms as president, theoretically does allow a person to serve up to ten years in office. If a person serving as vice president succeeds to the presidency, and serves for less than two years of the original president's term, he or she may still be elected twice and thus serve a total of ten full years in office.
Application of amendment
As of 2005, of the ten presidents to take office since the amendment was ratified, five have reached the limit of their eligibility for election: Dwight Eisenhower (served two full terms), Richard Nixon (elected twice consecutively, but resigned in second term), Ronald Reagan (served two full terms), Bill Clinton (served two full terms), and George W. Bush (served one full term and is currently serving the second). All except Bill Clinton were Republicans. The only president, as of 2005, to have been eligible to serve more than eight years under the amendment was Lyndon Johnson. Johnson succeeded to the presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and served less than two years of Kennedy's term. Had he stayed in the 1968 race and won, he could have been in office for over nine years.
Some have questioned the interpretation of the Twenty-second Amendment as it relates to the Twelfth Amendment. The Twelfth Amendment provides that anyone constitutionally ineligible to the office of President is ineligible to that of Vice President. Clearly, the original constitutional qualifications (age, citizenship and residency) apply under the Twelfth Amendment to both the President and Vice President. It is unclear, however, if a two-term President could later be elected—or appointed—Vice President. Some argue that the Twenty-second Amendment and Twelfth Amendment bar any two-term President from later serving as Vice President and from succeeding to the Presidency from any point in the line of succession. Others suggest that the Twelfth Amendment concerns qualification for service, while the Twenty-second Amendment concerns qualifications for election. No two-term President has later sought to become Vice President since the ratification of the Twenty-Second Amendment; thus, the courts have never had an opportunity to decide the question.
Criticism of amendment
Former U.S. president Bill Clinton has recently voiced his opinion in favor of modifications to the 22nd Amendment. According to Mr. Clinton, former presidents who have already served two terms should be allowed to run for the office again, after some interim period has passed. He reasoned the country may wish to trust leadership onto an already tried and proven candidate in times of great need.
- Constitution of the United States.
- Neale, Thomas H. (2001). "Presidential and Vice Presidential Terms and Tenure."
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