A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Third term for Obama?


Q: Is there a move to make Obama eligible for more than two terms as president?

A: A bill that proposes repealing the 22nd Amendment has been introduced, but so far it has very little support.

FULL QUESTION

Is there any truth in Obama wanting to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution so he can be president for life? I am seeing many sites referring to him as King Obama and that he wants to be president for life.

FULL ANSWER

It’s true that New York Rep. Jose Serrano, a Democrat, introduced a bill (H.J.RES.5) on Jan. 6, when Congress opened, proposing the repeal of the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which limits presidents to two terms. Repealing that amendment would require ratification by three-fourths of the states.

The bill was referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties and is sitting there now. It has no cosponsors.

Serrano introduced or cosponsored the same proposal in 1997 and 1999, when Democrat Bill Clinton was president, and again in 2001 just days before Republican George Bush was sworn in for his first term. He also introduced it in 2003, 2005 and 2007, all before Barack Obama even announced he was running for president.

All of these bills died in committee without ever coming to a vote. None of Serrano’s bills attracted any cosponsors, except for the 1997 and 1999 versions, each of which was cosponsored by Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, a Republican.

Furthermore, when we asked Rep. Serrano about this, he stated in an e-mail message to us that the White House was not supporting his measure or offering him any advice about it.

Rep. Serrano, June 15: I introduce it [the repeal bill] as a matter of principle: I do not believe there should be term limits for any elected official. Elections should be the deciding factor. I do not receive advice or support on this bill from the White House or any other source.

Other Repeal Efforts

Similar measures also were introduced in 2001, 2003 and 2005 by Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland and a handful of House members. Most of Hoyer’s cosponsors were Democrats, but Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner cosponsored Hoyer’s bill each time. And Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois cosponsored it in 2001 and 2003. Hoyer put in all these repeal measures while Bush was president and Democrats were in the minority in the House. All of the bills died in committee.

Why would Democrats want to repeal term limits to allow a Republican president to serve a third term? Hoyer explained in remarks printed in the Congressional Record when he introduced the bill in 2005, weeks after Bush had been sworn in for his second term:

Rep. Hoyer, Feb. 17, 2005: The time has come to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, and not because of partisan politics. While I am not a supporter of the current President, I feel there are good public policy reasons for a repeal of this amendment. Under the Constitution as altered by the 22nd Amendment, this must be President George W. Bush’s last term even if the American people should want him to continue in office. This is an undemocratic result.

Under the resolution I offer today, President Bush would not be eligible to run for a third term. However, the American people would have restored to themselves and future generations an essential democratic privilege to elect who they choose in the future.

We neither endorse nor oppose Hoyer’s argument, and we take no position on term limits for presidents or for any other office. We do say that there’s no evidence that Obama is pushing for repeal and little sign of partisan motivation for Serrano’s bill. Furthermore, repeal proposals show no more signs of life now than they have over the past decade.

-Brooks Jackson