The United States Constitution is the oldest constitution still in active use today, written in 1787 and ratified in 1788. It is considered one of the best constitutions ever written, providing a masterful framework for a stable and effective government, and contains 7 main sections known as articles and 27 amendments. The 22nd Amendment established term limits for the president, preventing them from being elected to more than 2 terms in office.
22nd Amendment – Overview
The 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951 in the aftermath of Franklin Roosevelt being elected to a record 4 presidential terms in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. While the original US Constitution did not set term limits for the president, every president up until Roosevelt hadn’t served more than 2 terms, following in the tradition of George Washington. Ironically, the only other president to make a serious bid to serve more than 2 presidential terms was Teddy Roosevelt, a distant relative of Franklin Roosevelt, who had attempted to serve a 3rd term when he ran as a 3rd party candidate in 1912 after serving in office from 1901-1909. The 22nd Amendment was spearhead by the Republican-controlled Congress in 1947, and its partisan nature was reflected in the fact that it took nearly 4 years to be ratified, the 2nd longest approval time for an amendment to the US Constitution.
Section 1 specifically prohibited a president from being elected more than two times and also prohibited a president from being elected more than once if they have already served more than 2 years of a presidential term of a previous president who had died or been removed from office. Therefore, a president could serve up to 10 years as president, as long the partial term they served was not for more than 2 years. This provision for serving a partial presidential term came into play a little over a decade later when President Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon Johnson took office in November of 1963. Because Johnson would only end up serving a little over a year of President Kennedy’s term, he was allowed to serve 2 more terms although he chose not to do so. Section 1 also stipulated that the amendment would not apply to any president currently in office at the time it was proposed, or to any president in office when the amendment finally passed. As a result, Harry Truman could have served for as many presidential terms as he wanted if he continued to win elections since the amendment was proposed and passed when he was in office.
Section 2 sets the timeframe and process for approving the 22nd Amendment, specifying that 3/4’s of state legislators must approve the amendment within 7 years if it is to become law. Although it was approved well within the 7-year approval timeframe, it took much longer to be approved than most other amendments, partly because the amendment was formulated by Republicans as a partisan response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s 4 successive presidential terms.