House Democrats are expected to introduce a bill on Tuesday that would limit a Supreme Court Justice’s term to 18 years, cutting short the historically-understood Constitutional interpretation of a lifetime appointment.

The Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act is sponsored by California Democrat Representative Ro Khanna, and co-sponsored by Rep Joe Kennedy III (Mass.) and Rep Don Beyer (VA).

“It would save the country a lot of agony and help lower the temperature over fights for the court that go to the fault lines of cultural issues and is one of the primary things tearing at our social fabric,” said Rep Khanna of the legislation. “Every president should have an equal chance to appoint justices. Our entire democratic system shouldn’t hinge on the shoulders of individual Supreme Court justices.”

Article III of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress power in the regulation of federal courts, but proclaims that “Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior…” This has historically been interpreted to mean that Supreme Court Justices have lifetime tenure.

The bill would limit a Supreme Court Justice’s term to 18 years, and after that term, would allow the Justice to continue to serve on lower courts (in theory, abiding by Article III’s “shall hold their Offices during good Behavior” standard).

Additionally, each president would be limited to two appointments in a 4-year term.

The bill is expected to be introduced to the House floor on Tuesday, less than two weeks after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which opened a vacant seat on the Supreme Court only weeks away from the presidential election. The Trump administration and GOP-led Senate have been working to push an appointment through before the election, while Democrats have been calling for the appointment to wait for the election and inauguration of the next president.

President Trump has appointed two Supreme Court Justices since his 2016 election – Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. His expected appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to be replace Justice Ginsburg would be his third appointment (to be officially announced later today).

Rep. Khanna has defended his bill by pointing to public support:

In Tweets posted the same day, Khanna also declared, “We will not go back to the days before Roe v. Wade” and accused the political right of rushing to fill Ginsburg’s seat in order to “strip health care from millions of Americans.”

Trump’s expected appointment of Amy Coney Barrett would create a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court.

Caitlin Bassett

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17 comments

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    • Right on. But for the SCOTUS, they don’t need term limits they need AGE limits!! Seriously, when they are falling asleep in their chair….Ginsburg should have retired 5-10 years ago.

      • Agreed! Wholeheartedly! When a Justice gets to the point where they can’t keep up the schedule set and do their job, (without having their aids doing it in their place) it’s time they either pack it in voluntarily or be involuntarily removed by the rest of the Court. I say it that way because many people in their 70’s or 80’s are still going strong while others are not up to par.

  • We need term limits long before worrying about the SCJ’s. But then the Demacraps just worry about how it will help them.

  • This is not how you change the constitution. To change the constitution requires a constitutional amendment. All her and the democrats are doing is flapping their lips and wasting time and money. Will never happen or stand the court if litigated.

  • Interesting that someone adverse to term limits in her job, would be so quick to limit someone else.
    Limiting the President to two terms required a Constitutional amendment. Limiting Congress or the Supreme Court would also require a Constitutional amendment.

  • Well, FIRST off, we need a Constitutional Amendment to limit Congress to 2 terms of servitude to the American Public. THEN we can talk about changes to the Courts. IF we passed a Constitutional Amendment holding people to only 18 years of Service, then President Trump would either need to leave the Courts half empty, or fill a few more seats pronto! As of right now, we’d lose Justices Thomas & Breyer. With Justice Alito & Justice Roberts leaving within the next 4 years. That would give President Trump another 4 Justices beyond the surrent seat to seat to have a full court. As it is the sitting President’s DUTY (a word foreign to Pelosi ) to fill those seats ASAP, her edict about only 2 Justices per term is just plain ludicrous! This is beside the fact that there is no way she is able to push through a Constitutional Amendment as she doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hades of making it through any time in her lifetime. There is a better chance of term limits for Congress during her lifetime. I’m just praying that San Fransisco calls her home permanently next month.

  • I like the idea of term limits, but we should start with Congress. The framers saw members of Congress as citizen legislators and assumed they would serve one or two terms and then go back to being full time citizens living under the laws they wrote. If we could get three terms maximum for Representatives and two terms maximum for Senators, I would be willing to accept 18 year terms for Supreme Court Judges, but it is stupid to add a limit on how many judges any one president could add during his/her term(s). What if three judges died or retired or served out their 18 years during any president’s terms of office? Are we to try to have a court with only eight judges (it would make the court useless for the period where judges were missing.

  • Her hero RBG would have been sent out to pasture years ago. George Bush would have gotten to name her successor.

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