Fri. Aug 12th, 2022

House Democrats push bill that would term limit Supreme Court justices

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A group of House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a bill that would place term limits on current and new Supreme Court justices. 

The bill, “Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization (TERM) Act,” was introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., and seeks to amend federal law, placing an 18-year limit on Supreme Court justices while on the bench. 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., is introducing a similar bill in the Senate.

The bill proposes the president appoint justices in the first and third years after a presidential election. Justices nominated and confirmed through this process would be limited to an 18-year term and retire.

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The Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 21, 2022.

The Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 21, 2022.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Sitting justices would all gain “senior” status as new justices are added, and retire in order based on current seniority.

In the case where the number of justices on the bench falls below the required nine due “to vacancy, disability, or disqualification,” the justice most recently retired from active service would be expected to step in as an associate justice until the vacancy can be filled. 

“This Supreme Court is increasingly facing a legitimacy crisis,” Johnson said in a statement released by his office. “Five of the six conservative justices on the bench were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and they are now racing to impose their out-of-touch agenda on the American people, who do not want it.”

The congressman also said in the statement that term limits were “a necessary step toward restoring balance” on the majority-conservative court. 

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Democrats have recently been pushing for reform on the Supreme Court, including proposals to pack the court, following the court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. The White House announced in June shortly after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that President Biden did not support Democrats’ push to expand the court. 

“So, I know I’ve… I was asked this question yesterday, and I’ve been asked it before — and I think the president himself … about expanding the court,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said to reporters then. “That is something that the president does not agree with. That is not something that he wants to do.”

Rep. Steve Scalise delivers remarks at the Capitol on June 29, 2021.

Rep. Steve Scalise delivers remarks at the Capitol on June 29, 2021.
(Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

On the other side of the aisle, GOP lawmakers are saying the recent push for reform is rooted in Democrats’ unhappiness with the court’s decisions.

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“When the Democrats get their way on rulings, they’re happy with the Supreme Court. When they don’t get their way, they want to pack the Supreme Court. They want to change the Supreme Court,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., on Wednesday at the House GOP weekly press conference. “They ought to focus with working with us Republicans on fixing the problems they’ve created instead of continuing to go out and attack other people…”

Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo in Washington on April 23, 2021.

Members of the Supreme Court pose for a group photo in Washington on April 23, 2021.
(Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

A Supreme Court justice is currently appointed to the bench for life, abiding by the “Good Behavior Clause” in the Constitution, which states:

“The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”

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Any effort to implement term limits would require a constitutional amendment. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report. 



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