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Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution
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Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution establishes a two-term limit for the Presidency. Congress proposed the Amendment on March 21, 1947. It was ratified by the requisite number of states on February 27, 1951.

Text

Section 1

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

Term Limits

George Washington, the first President of the United States, is often said to have established the tradition of limiting service as President to two terms only. His Farewell Address, however, suggests that he did not seek re-election because of his age. More accurately, one may suggest that Thomas Jefferson established the convention of a two-term limit; he noted, "If some termination to the services of the chief Magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally four years, will in fact become for life." Jefferson’s immediate successors, James Madison and James Monroe, adhered to the principle that a President should serve for only two terms.

Few Presidents had attempted to serve for more than two terms until Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ulysses S. Grant had sought a third term in office after serving from 1869 to 1877, but his party failed to nominate him. Theodore Roosevelt, who served from 1901 to 1909, sought to be elected for a second time (he was not elected to his first term, instead succeeding upon the death of William McKinley) in 1912, but lost to Woodrow Wilson. Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first person to successfully contest three presidential elections in 1940, while World War II was raging. In 1944, Franklin Roosevelt won a fourth term, but died in office.

After Franklin Roosevelt's death, many desired to establish a firm constitutional provision barring Presidents from being elected more than twice; hence, the Twenty-second Amendment was adopted. Under the Amendment, no person may be elected President more than twice. Furthermore, no Vice President or other person who has succeeded to the Presidency, and served as President or Acting President for more than two years, may be elected President more than once. Under the Amendment, one person may serve for ten consecutive years as President: that person would first succeed to the Presidency and serve for not more than two years, and then be elected to two full four-year terms. One may note that the Amendment's terms provide the limit does not apply to the individual serving as President at the time of its ratification (Harry S. Truman).

Some have questioned the interpretation of the Twenty-second Amendment as it relates to the Twelfth Amendment. The Twelfth Amendment provides that anyone constitutionally ineligible to the office of President is ineligible to that of Vice President. Clearly, the original constitutional qualifications (age, citizenship and residency) apply under the Twelfth Amendment to both the President and Vice President. It is unclear, however, if a two-term President could later be elected Vice President. Some argue that the Twenty-second Amendment and Twelfth Amendment bar any two-term President from later serving as Vice President and from succeeding to the Presidency from any point in the line of succession. Others suggest that the Twelfth Amendment concerns qualification for service, while the Twenty-second Amendment concerns qualifications for election. No two-term President has later sought to become Vice President since the ratification of the Twenty-Second Amendment; thus, the courts have never had an opportunity to decide the question.

References

21st Amendment Amendments
United States Constitution
23rd Amendment