Before President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his third and fourth terms in office, U.S. presidents had honored the limit established by George Washington that a president should serve no more than two terms.
Later, the 22nd Amendment formally restricted service in the Oval Office to two terms.
But now, U.S. Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., and a supporter of President Obama, has introduced House Joint Resolution 15 to repeal the 22nd Amendment and thus abolish presidential term limits.
Serrano has introduced the bill before, in 2003, 2009 and 2011 with no success. H.J.R. 15 would require a two-thirds majority vote in favor in both the House and Senate and a majority of support from state legislatures.
With the debate over the fiscal cliff dominating most of the discussion on Capitol Hill of late, the legislation has managed to slip under the radar.
It was introduced on Jan. 4 and immediately referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
Washington declined to run for a third term, despite his wide popularity. Thomas Jefferson later foreshadowed the need for a formal limit when, in 1805, he wrote to John Taylor that he would follow Washington’s example.
Two years later he warned that without term limits, U.S. presidents would become like kings, which the colonists had fought a bloody war to escape.
“If some termination to the services of the chief magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution or supplied in practice,” Jefferson wrote to the Vermont Legislature, “his office, nominally for years, will in fact become for life; and history shows how easily that degenerates into an inheritance.”
Formal limits were established March 21, 1947, when Congress passed the 22nd Amendment. By Feb. 26, 1951, the amendment was ratified by the required number of states and was added to the Constitution.
The 22nd Amendment states, “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.”
Serrano’s bill currently has no co-sponsors.
It states, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as president.”
It continues: “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification.”
WND reported four years ago when Obama was preparing for his 2009 inauguration gala, the same plan was before the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary.
At that time, Serrano’s bill was H.J.R. 5, which proposed “an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as president.”
Eisenhower, Clinton and Reagan all were critical of the amendment at times.
The amendment limits presidents to a maximum of eight years in office or, under unusual circumstances, such as succession following the death of a president, a maximum of 10 years in office. Should Serrano succeed in repealing the amendment, Obama would be cleared to run for an unlimited number of terms, restricted only by the vote of the electorate.
To achieve repeal of the 22nd Amendment, Serrano’s proposal must be approved by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress and ratified by three-quarters of the states’ legislatures.
“Gen. Washington set the example of voluntary retirement after eight years,” Jefferson wrote in an 1805 letter to John Taylor. “I shall follow it, and a few more precedents will oppose the obstacle of habit to anyone after a while who shall endeavor to extend his term. Perhaps it may beget a disposition to establish it by an amendment of the Constitution.”
In the same letter to the Vermont Legislature in which he warned of a presidential monarchy, Jefferson further explained why he refused to run for a third term.
“Believing that a representative government, responsible at short periods of election, is that which produces the greatest sum of happiness to mankind,” Jefferson wrote, “I feel it a duty to do no act which shall essentially impair that principle; and I should unwillingly be the person who, disregarding the sound precedent set by an illustrious predecessor, should furnish the first example of prolongation beyond the second term of office.”