The 22nd Amendment

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The 22nd Amendment sets a term limit for the President, who can serve no more than two full terms in that office.

The Constitution placed no such restriction on any member of the Federal Government. The first President, George Washington, served two terms and then retired, ostensibly because he was looking for retirement at age 65 (which was, for then, an advanced age). Still, Washington set something of a precedent, one followed by a large handful of his successors. Presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson served two consecutive terms but did not run again. Ulysses S. Grant (1868–1876) was the first President to seek a third term after serving two straight, but he waited four years to do so and then did not win his party's nomination the third time around. (The Republican Party in 1880 nominated James A. Garfield, who won.) The result was the same for Woodrow Wilson, who won elections in 1912 and 1916 and then went for three in a row in 1920 but saw the Democratic Party hand the nomination instead to James Cox, who lost to Republican Warren G. Harding.

The first President to win three straight elections was Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected in a landslide in 1932, re-elected in an even bigger landslide in 1936, and then re-elected twice more, in the middle of World War II.

The text of the 22nd Amendment is this:

SECTION 1: 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.

SECTION 2: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.

Despite Roosevelt's immense popularity in many circles, a majority in Congress after the end of World War II thought that the time was right to institute a presidential term limit. Congress approved the 22nd Amendment on March 21, 1947. Within two months, 18 states had ratified the Amendment. However, it took four years for the necessary three-quarters of the states to ratify. The final result was announced on February 27, 1951.

Since the institution of the 22nd Amendment, the following Presidents have served two full consecutive terms: Eisenhower, Reagan, Clinton, (George W.) Bush, and Obama.

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David White