House Dems Propose Limiting Supreme Court Justice Term To 18 Years

"We can't face a national crisis every time a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court."

Flowers and notes are left outside of the U.S. Supreme Court to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Washington, United States on September 21, 2020. | Getty Images
Flowers and notes are left outside of the U.S. Supreme Court to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Washington, United States on September 21, 2020. | Getty Images

House Democrats have authored a bill that would set the term limits of U.S. Supreme Court justices to 18 years. The prospective bill would also prohibit presidents from appointing more than two justices during a four-year term.

Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (CA), Joe Kennedy III (MA), and Don Beyer (VA), the "Supreme Court Term Limits Act” would create term limits for justices on the country’s highest court. Under the constitution, justices can currently hold their seats as long as they choose, and can only be removed if they are impeached.

Democrats are expected to introduce the bill on Tuesday, according to multiple reports.

After SCOTUS justices serve an 18-year term, they would be deemed a “Senior Justice” and would still be allowed to serve in lower courts, according to the bill. If a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court, the retired Chief Justice who was most recently named Senior Justice would fill the seat until a replacement is named. The limit would not apply to justices who are already seated on the court.

The bill would also limit a sitting president to nominate only two justices, during the first and third years of a four-year term. The Senate would then have 120 days to act on a president's nomination, or the nominee will be seated on the Supreme Court.

"We can't face a national crisis every time a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court," Khanna said of the bill in a statement Friday. "No justice should feel the weight of an entire country on their shoulders. No president should be able to shift the ideology of our highest judicial body by mere chance."

CNN called the prospective bill a “largely symbolic response” to vacancy in the court left by late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as the GOP-led Senate is unlikely to pass it. The Senate is currently working to fast-track President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, to replace Ginsburg’s seat in the court. Senate confirmation hearings for Barrett are set to start on Oct. 12.

The Hill also reported that many legal experts believe that changes to the Supreme Court terms and appointments would require a constitutional amendment.

Some Republicans in the past have expressed support for setting term limits on justices, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Chief Justice John Roberts had also expressed favor for term limits before he was appointed.