At almost any other moment, this topic could have been well received, or at least some consideration. At this particular moment, though, it carries an unmistakable aroma of sour grapes. With conservatives about to solidify a six-seat majority on the Supreme Court, suddenly House Democrats want to talk term limits on the justices, and appointment limits for presidential terms:
Democrats in of the House of Representatives will introduce a bill next week to limit the tenure of U.S. Supreme Court justices to 18 years from current lifetime appointments, in a bid to reduce partisan warring over vacancies and preserve the court’s legitimacy.
The new bill, seen by Reuters, would allow every president to nominate two justices per four-year term and comes amid heightened political tensions as Republican President Donald Trump prepares to announce his third pick for the Supreme Court after the death on Sept. 18 of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with just 40 days to go until the Nov. 3 election.
“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 California U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, who plans to introduce the legislation on Tuesday, along with Representatives Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts and Don Beyer of Virginia.
The bill does have its selling points. For one, it would not apply to any of the current justices at the time of passage, which means it won’t change the tilt of the court for a number of years. It also rotates term-limited justices back to appellate courts (or district courts) to avoid a constitutional challenge over the Article III language that allows judges to “hold their offices during Good Behaviour.” The Supreme Court — and pretty much everyone else — interprets that as mandating lifetime appointments except if impeached and removed by Congress. This bill stretches the term “offices” to cover the idea of rotation off the top bench; in essence it guarantees lifetime appointments and income rather than the office itself.