A group of House Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday that would bring term limits to the Supreme Court.
The bill, however, does not appear to be an endorsement for "court packing" in terms of increasing the number of justices beyond the current configuration of nine members.
Here is the breakdown of the bill, which was brought forth by Rep. Hank Johnson D-Ga., and subsequently sponsored by 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.:
- The legislation, bearing the name of the "Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization Act," would permit U.S. presidents to nominate new Supreme Court justices every two years — in Year 1 and Year 3 of their respective term.
- If presidents consistently followed through on this power every 24 months, then no Supreme Court justice would represent the bench for more than 18 years. At that point, the justices would transition from "active" to "senior" status with the high court — while still receiving full-time justice pay.
- If the number of total justices dips below nine at any point — due to disability, disqualification, death or a retirement-based vacancy — the justice who most recently attained senior status would serve as the ninth associate member.
Currently, there are six conservative-leaning justices (Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett), and three left-leaning justices (Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson) on the bench.
The Supreme Court has been made up of nine justices since 1869; but some House Democrats view this system of lifetime appointments as obsolete.
"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," said Johnson, referring to justices nominated by former President George W. Bush and former President Donald Trump.
Johnson added, "Term limits are a necessary step toward restoring balance to this radical, unrestrained majority on the court."
The above comment from Johnson may be tangibly accurate, but it also ignores that presidents are not selected by popular vote. Rather, each candidate must reach a certain threshold of Electoral College votes to claim the White House — a tradition that dates back to 1787.
According to reports, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has introduced the same term-limits bill in the Senate.
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