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A Second SCOTUS Term Limits Bill Is Introduced in Congress

FTC’s take: This is “addition by addition” — the more proposals that are out there, the more robust a discussion the public will have, which in time will spur action.

Rep. Hank Johnson and six House colleagues last night introduced a bill that would cap future Supreme Court justices’ terms at 18 years and give each president two SCOTUS picks per term.

This framework for reform has been popular on the right and the left for two decades, yet this is only the second bill ever introduced to create this new structure, with Rep. Ro Khanna’s Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act, introduced in 2020 and 2021, being the first.

This bill comes as recent polling shows SCOTUS term limits remain incredibly popular among Americans, no matter their ideology.

In terms of the text, the Johnson bill, called the Supreme Court TERM Act (H.R. 8500), differs from the Khanna bill in that the former does not exempt the current nine from being moved to senior status. In other words, were the TERM Act to go into effect, President Biden would make a SCOTUS pick next year, who, once confirmed, would push Justice Thomas to senior status, at which point Thomas would no longer hear cases or vote on petitions. The 2025 nominee would push Chief Justice Roberts to senior status, and so on.

Under both proposals, senior status justices could return to SCOTUS should the number of active justices fall below nine.

See Also: Realistic and Unrealistic Options for SCOTUS Reform | What Senators Have Said | Why An Amendment Isn’t Needed

Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said: “The Supreme Court has been too powerful for decades, deciding who wins elections, who can vote and get health care and even who lives and dies. Rep. Johnson’s TERM Act would be a potent antidote. It would end the all-too-common, and patently undemocratic, three-decades-plus reigns of today’s justices and give the people a more direct say in who serves on the high court via biennial appointments. It’d also end the macabre conceit where American law depends on the health of a few 70- and 80-somethings.”

“Whether you prefer exempting the current nine from senior status or not, this bill is addition by addition. The more reform proposals that are out there, the more robust a discussion the public will have about this much-needed reform, and the more pressure will be put on Democratic leadership to advance one of them. That’s all good news if you want the court to have less power to impact so many aspects of our lives,” Roth added.

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