Connecticut Law Review Volume 43 - Issue 4

A Skeptical View of a Skeptical View of Presidential Term Limits

Dean Jeremy Paul is concerned that the presidency has been weakened and that the Twenty-Second Amendment’s limitation on presidential service is at least partly to blame. He proposes replacing the Twenty-Second Amendment with a new Amendment limiting Presidents to three consecutive terms, after which the President would be required to sit out a term before serving again. I am skeptical of the claim that the presidency has actually been weakened in recent decades, but even if it has been, there is reason to be skeptical of the claim that term limits have anything to do with any weakening of the presidency. The President’s continued control over the Executive Branch throughout the duration of a second term means that any increase in the power of Congress and the federal courts relative to the President is likely to derive from a source other than term limits. Further, there are reasons to be skeptical, even fearful, of a potentially unlimited presidency. The ambition to stay in office might lead incumbent Presidents to take extreme measures to stay in power. Finally, if concern over the balance of power within the federal government is legitimate, I speculate that better ways to increase the President’s power relative to the other branches might involve term limits on Members of Congress and reforms to separation of powers doctrine and constitutional provisions aimed at weakening Congress, rather than increasing presidential power directly.

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