Term limits and lengths in the United States of America

Term limits and lengths in the United States of America

Hunter Pierce, Content Editor

In politics at the federal level, most positions have term limits that range from 2-6 years. After their term is served, they must be voted back into office, with all but the president being able to serve unlimited terms. (Exceptions to this are governors of 36 states that have gubernatorial term limits, set by each state’s constitution). The president of the United States may only serve up to two terms. This has been since the 22nd amendment was put into place in 1951, which was caused by Franklin Delano Roosevelt running for, and winning a third term in the presidential office, which broke an unofficial code to not run more than twice. A precedent that was set in place by George Washington, after passing on a third term multiple times. 

While the President is an outlier in only being able to serve two terms in a lifetime, the Supreme Court is an outlier as well, as the court is made up of nine justices, all of which serve for life “during good behavior”, and are appointed by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. The Supreme Court is the only position on a federal level in which the public has zero input on who becomes one or stays on it. This becomes an issue when the Supreme Court makes some of the most important decisions in government and heads the entire judicial branch. At the same time, the people have zero say on who ends up on it, as well as “good behavior” being an extremely vague term, meaning that it is almost impossible to remove someone from the court until they die.

Another example of needing term limits comes from a previous Governor of Iowa, Terry Brandstad, who was Governor of Iowa for 22 years straight, only ending his tenure by resigning in 2017 to serve as the United States ambassador to China per Trump’s nomination. Brandstad is also the longest-running Governor in the history of the United States, beating out George Clinton (First governor of New York 1777-1801) by two years. 

However, there are also many reasons to keep the existing system in place. Some examples of this being the reasoning for having the supreme court serve for life. Philip Moss, Political Controversy and Instructional Coach for Clear Creek Amana High School said this regarding the court serving for life, “The goal is to remove political pressure. If you were to put a term limit – “You’re gonna see a much more active court so they can say ‘see I did that’ (“they” in this case referring to the court member),- which I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing”. 

“The issue you would run into is the separation of power between the states and federal government. I think it would be beneficial for the states to be the “incubators of democracy.” Moss said on the question of if we should have a set standard for governor limits. By setting a federal limit on how many times a Governor can run for office, the federal government would be removing that choice of the states to have their elected official be able to run and ruining that balance of power between the states and the federal government.

While there are reasons to keep the existing system in place, Evan Schulte, history teacher for Clear Creek Amana High School, did say this regarding the Supreme Court, “I don’t think the court should have limits. I think the selection or acceptance of supreme court members could be different as both parties have at different times blocked nominees even though it is the sitting president’s duty to nominate.” While the president has the sole power to nominate any person that the president wishes, the senate must approve with a 2/3rds majority, then that person may become a supreme court member. However there is no time frame the senate must vote in, so the senate can simply not vote and wait for the next presidential election, hoping for someone of a different political party to win.