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.