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Democrats Introduce Bill to Enact Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices

The West Facade of the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC, shows the columned portico of the building with one of its two reflecting pools in the foreground. gcsu.edu
The West Facade of the Supreme Court Building in Washington DC, shows the columned portico of the building with one of its two reflecting pools in the foreground. gcsu.edu

A group of House Democrats introduced a bill on Tuesday to enact term limits for Supreme Court justices, arguing that the move will “restore legitimacy and independence to the nation’s highest court.”

The legislation, titled the Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization Act, would authorize the president to nominate Supreme Court justices every two years — in the first and third years after a presidential election. The justices who have been on the court the longest will be moved to senior status first.

If confirmed by the Senate, those individuals would serve a maximum 18 years on the bench. After their tenures are complete, the Supreme Court justices would retire from active service and assume senior status.

Justices on the bench at the time of the bill’s enactment would switch to senior status one by one as justices are confirmed to the bench in the first and third years after a presidential election.

Under senior status, justices will still hold their office on the Supreme Court, which includes official duties and pay. If the number of justices dips below nine at some point — because of a vacancy, disability or disqualification — the justice who most recently attained senior status would serve as the ninth associate justice.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduced the bill along with Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) as co-sponsors.

In a statement Johnson said the bench “is increasingly facing a legitimacy crisis.”

“Five of the six conservative justices on the bench were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and they are now racing to impose their out-of-touch agenda on the American people, who do not want it,” he said, referring to justices nominated by former Presidents Trump and George W. Bush.

“Term limits are a necessary step toward restoring balance to this radical, unrestrained majority on the court,” he added.

Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said implementing term limits for justices is “essential” amid “all the harmful and out-of-touch rulings from the Supreme Court this last year.”

“Otherwise, we will be left with backwards-looking majority for a generation or more,” he added in a statement.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the same measure in the Senate.

Introduction of the bill comes more than a month after the Supreme Court issued a ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that deemed the right to abortion constitutional.

The decision caused outrage among Democrats across the country and mobilized House lawmakers to pass a pair of bills safeguarding access to abortion.

Earlier this month, following the seismic Supreme Court ruling, a coalition of House Democrats — including Johnson — touted a bill to expand the bench, adding four seats to bring the total number of justices to 13.

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