“What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable, than that of Liberty & Learning, each leaning on each on the other for their mutual and surest support?” ~James Madison
By Alden L. Benton
Throughout the past several months, I have been seeing all manner of headlines and articles on the internet trumpeting the possibility, for some, the inevitability of a third term for President Obama. Many are rife with conspiracies, and most are devoid of facts.
Article 2, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution establishes the office of the president, defines the length of the term of office, the qualifications for office, and the process for electing the president. (Article 2, Section 1) In the original Constitution, the term of the president is four years.
George Washington voluntarily left office as our first president at the end of his second term. This set an unofficial precedent for presidents until 1940 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to serve a third consecutive term. In 1944, Roosevelt was reelected to serve a fourth term. President Roosevelt died in April 1945.
On March 3, 1947, Congress proposed the 22nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating:
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
On February 27, 1951, 36 states ratified the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. (Note: In 1951, there were only 48 states.)
As far as President Obama is concerned, there is no Constitutional way that he could serve a third term.
However, on January 4, Congressman José Serrano (D-NY15) introduced a House Joint Resolution, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President.” (HJ Res 15)
The framers of the Constitution realized that time and circumstances might necessitate changes to the Constitution. However, unlike the progressive-statist notion that the Constitution is an ever-changing living document, they made the process of changing the Constitution a long and difficult process. Article 5 of the Constitution (Article 5) describes this process stating:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress….
Today,to amend the Constitution, at least 290 members of the House of Representatives and at least 67 Senators must approve the amendment. The proposed amendment then goes to the states where it must be approved by at least 38 of the state legislatures.
The Constitution also allows at least 33 state legislatures to call for a Constitutional convention. Any amendments proposed in a Constitutional convention must be returned to the states where at least 38 of their legislatures must approve before it becomes part of the Constitution.
In the 226-year history of the Constitution, there have been 27 amendments. Ten of those amendments, the Bill of Rights, were ratified on December 15, 1791.
Knowing the process demonstrates how difficult and rare an amendment to the Constitution is. If Representative Serrano’s resolution managed to escape committee, it would face a long and difficult road to ratification.
As far as a third term for President Obama, the best he can hope for is that sometime in the future his supporters could muster enough national support to amend the Constitution. However, his chances for a third term consecutive term are slim and none, and slim has already left town.
“I consider knowledge to be the soul of a republic, and as the weak and the wicked are generally in alliance, as much care should be taken to diminish the number of the former as of the latter. Education is the way to do this, and nothing should be left undone to afford all ranks of people the means of obtaining a proper degree of it at a cheap and easy rate.” ~John Jay
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