Two Democrat representatives are pushing for term limits for U.S. Supreme Court justices amid the court’s latest rulings on affirmative action, student loan forgiveness, and more.
The court recently concluded its 2022 term by striking down race-based admissions in higher education, rejecting the Biden administration’s plans for student debt forgiveness, and ruling that web designers cannot be forced to create speech that contradicts their beliefs.
Criticizing the court as “out-of-touch,” Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) reintroduced the “Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act” on Friday.
The bill would establish staggered, 18-year terms for justices on the nation’s high court. It would also require the president to nominate and appoint a new justice every two years.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to block student debt relief will put many hardworking Americans at risk of default and will be a disaster for our economy,” Mr. Khanna said in a statement.
Overhauling the CourtArticle III of the Constitution establishes that Supreme Court justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,” or in other words, for as long as they choose, provided they are not removed from office by impeachment.
Nevertheless, the push to impose term limits on the court’s membership is not new—and neither is the latest legislation.
The term limits bill Democrats are now promoting was previously introduced by Mr. Khanna in August 2021 but failed to gain traction in the House under Democrat leadership.
Under the provisions of the bill, a new Supreme Court justice would be appointed to the court during the first and third years of every presidential term. After serving 18 years on the court, a justice would be deemed retired from regular active service and take on the title of “senior justice.”
Senior justices, at the direction of the chief justice, would be able to continue performing “such judicial activities as such justice is willing and able to undertake,” such as serving on lower courts, but would not be on the panel of nine junior justices issuing opinions on matters before the court. However, if a vacancy were to open on the court due to death, disability, or another justice’s removal, the most recently retired senior justice would step in temporarily until a new appointment could be confirmed.
The bill’s changes would not apply to the current justices on the court.
Disappointing OutcomesThe bill’s reintroduction follows a string of rulings handed down by the high court that have disappointed and angered Democrats.
From the court’s overturning of landmark abortion ruling Roe v. Wade last year to its more recent rejections of affirmative action and student loan forgiveness, those on the left are dissatisfied with the ideological makeup of the court.
“For many Americans, the Supreme Court is a distant, secretive, unelected body that can make drastic changes in their lives without any accountability,” Mr. Beyer said in a statement. “Recent partisan decisions by the Supreme Court that destroyed historic protections for reproductive rights, voting rights, and more have undermined public trust in the Court—even as inappropriate financial relationships between justices and conservative donors raised new questions about its integrity.
“I have long supported reforming the Supreme Court to limit terms to end lifetime tenures and ensure the Court remains a fair and impartial arbiter of justice,” he added. “Our bill would achieve this and help restore balance to a heavily politicized Court.”
Republicans have pointed out that Democrats did not voice such complaints when the balance of power on the court was in their favor.
Prior to former President Donald Trump’s three appointments to the court—Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—the Supreme Court often sided with Democrats, including on the controversial Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015, which required all states to license and recognize same-sex marriages.
The poll found that 68 percent of American adults feel U.S. Supreme Court justices should only serve on the court for a limited time. That includes majorities of Democrats (78 percent), Republicans (57 percent), and independents (66 percent).
Just under one-third—30 percent—believe justices should serve lifetime appointments.
Even if the latest bill on the matter passes, it will likely be met with swift legal challenges on constitutional grounds.