Democrats Unveil Bill Proposing Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
September 25, 2020Updated: April 16, 2021

Democrats in the House of Representatives unveiled legislation on Sept. 25 that would limit the length of time a Supreme Court justice could serve to 18 years.

News of the bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), comes as President Donald Trump prepares to announce his nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The legislation (pdf)—the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act—would allow every president to nominate two justices per four-year term, and is an attempt by House Democrats to reduce partisan warring over vacancies.

“We need term limits for the Supreme Court. Every president should have an equal chance to appoint justices,” Khanna said on Twitter. “Our entire democratic system shouldn’t hinge on the shoulders of individual Supreme Court justices.

“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,” he added.

A spokesperson for Khanna told Fox News in an emailed statement that the congressman is expected to introduce the bill next week, along with Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA.).

Justices do not currently have term limits. On average, the tenure of Supreme Court justices stands at more than 25 years, partly due to rising life expectancies.

Epoch Times Photo
The Supreme Court is seen in Washington on Nov. 5, 2020. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

According to Gabe Roth, the executive director of judicial transparency group Fix the Court, the legislation is the first attempt to limit the tenure of Supreme Court justices by statute.

According to a recent PBS survey commissioned by the group, 77 percent of Americans support term limits, while 22 percent oppose it.

The bill states that current justices would be exempt from the 18-year term limit. Justices appointed under the proposed rules would become “senior” upon retirement and rotate to lower courts.

“That’s perfectly consistent with their judicial independence and having a lifetime salary and a lifetime appointment,” Khanna said.

The president said Tuesday evening that filling Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat before the election is essential given the court’s role in resolving cases related to mail-in voter fraud. Ginsburg passed away on Sept. 18.

“We need nine justices. You need that. With the unsolicited millions of ballots that they’re sending—it’s a scam, it’s a hoax. Everybody knows that. And the Democrats know it better than anybody else,” Trump said in response to a reporter who asked if confirming the justice would, as some Democrats said, “tear the country apart.”

“So you’re going to need nine justices up there. I think it’s going to be very important,” the president added. “Because what they’re doing is a hoax, with the ballots. They’re sending out tens of millions of ballots, unsolicited—not where they’re being asked, but unsolicited. And that’s a hoax, and you’re going to need to have nine justices.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will move forward with confirming any nominee the president puts forth.

Ivan Pentchoukov and Reuters contributed to this report.