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House Democrats introduced a bill Tuesday that would place strict term limits on Supreme Court Justices and mandate that the President make new appointments to the Court every two years.
A group of Democrats in the House, led by Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, introduced the bill into the record Tuesday evening. The bill, titled the ‘‘Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization Act of 2022,” or TERM Act, would place term limits of 18 years on Supreme Court justices, and mandate that the President appoint a justice to the Court twice during each term.
The first section of the bill deals with the appointment of justices. The text states:
The President shall, during the first and third years after a year in which there is a Presidential election, nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint one justice of the Supreme Court.
The bill only allows Presidents to appoint Supreme Court justices according to these parameters.
Next, the bill establishes an 18-year term limit for Supreme Court Justices from the time they are commissioned to serve on the Court. The text states:
Each justice shall serve in regular active service for 18 years from the date of the justice’s commission, after which the justice shall be deemed to have retired from regular active service under section 371.
Furthermore, the bill would force all the justices sitting on the Court at the time of the bill’s passage to retire upon the appointment of a new justice, beginning with the longest-serving justice and continuing in order of duration of service.
Finally, the bill amends current law on the books regarding the number of justices. The bill stipulates that whenever the number of justices falls below the number established by law, “due to vacancy, disability, or disqualification,” the most-recently retired justice will serve as an associate justice until a replacement is appointed to the Court.
The bill was introduced in the House by Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson; co-sponsors of the bill include New York Congressman and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler, Judiciary Committee members David Ciciline of Rhode Island, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, and Steve Cohen of Tennessee, and California Reps. Karen Bass and Ro Khanna. A version of the bill is also being introduced in the Senate by Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
In a statement accompanying the legislation, Johnson attacked the current makeup of the Supreme Court, saying that the Court is “facing a legitimacy crisis” because of its conservative majority, and because five of six conservatives were appointed by Presidents who did not win a majority of the popular vote.
“This Supreme Court is increasingly facing a legitimacy crisis,” Johnson said. “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. Term limits are a necessary step toward restoring balance to this radical, unrestrained majority on the court.”
The bill is the latest attempt by Democrats to radically reshape the Court, after the Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision in June. Back in 2021, Johnson and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced bills in the House and Senate to expand the number of justices on the Court from 9 to 13.