America 101: Are there term limits for U.S. vice presidents?

America 101: Are there term limits for U.S. vice presidents?

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American presidents are limited to two, four-year terms in office (or a maximum of 10 years in a case of a president who ascended to the position as vice president), thanks to the 22nd Amendment, which was ratified in 1951. However, vice presidents, like members of the U.S. Congress, face no such restrictions on how long they can hold their jobs. To date, though, no one who’s ever been a heartbeat away from the presidency has served more than two full terms. In fact, only nine VPs have served for eight years: John Adams, Daniel Tompkins, John C. Calhoun, Thomas Marshall, John Nance Garner, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden.

Since 1789, there have been 47 veeps, including Joseph Biden, and 14 of them have gone on to become commander-in-chief. Eight ascended to the top spot after their boss died in office, while five others (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush) were elected to the role. In 1841, when President William Henry Harrison succumbed to pneumonia a month after his inauguration, John Tyler made the nation’s speediest leap from VP to chief executive.

Seven vice presidents have died in office (all from natural causes, compared with four presidential assassinations), and two have resigned. In 1832, Vice President John Calhoun ditched the job in order to fill a vacated U.S. Senate seat, and in 1973 Spiro Agnew resigned in the midst of a bribery scandal. (Gerald Ford, who was appointed VP after Agnew vacated the post, went on to the White House a year later, when President Nixon resigned. Ford is the only person to have held both jobs without being elected.) The record for most vice presidents goes to Franklin Roosevelt, who had three–John Nance Garner, Henry Wallace, Harry Truman–over the course of his four terms in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, there have been two veeps, George Clinton and John Calhoun, who each served two different chief executives.

Every president since John Adams has resided in the White House, but VPs lived in private homes until the 1970s. In 1974, Congress agreed to renovate a house on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory for use by the vice president and his family. Three years later, Walter Mondale became the first veep to call the place home. Since then, the Naval Observatory has been the official residence of the vice president.

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The office of Vice President of the United States is established along with the office of President of the United States in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which also creates and designates the Electoral College system as the method by which both offices are to be filled.

Before the enactment of the 12th Amendment in 1804, there were no separately nominated candidates for vice president. Instead, as required by Article II, Section 1, the presidential candidate receiving the second-highest number of electoral votes was awarded the vice presidency. In essence, the vice presidency was treated as a consolation prize.

It took only three elections for the weakness of that system of choosing the vice president to become obvious. In the 1796 election, Founding Fathers and bitter political rivals John Adams, a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson, a Republican, ended up as president and vice president. To say the least, the two did not play well together.

Fortunately, the government back then was quicker to fix its mistakes than the government of now, so by 1804, the 12th Amendment had revised the electoral process so that candidates ran specifically for either president or vice president. Today, when you vote for a presidential candidate, you are also voting for his or her vice presidential running mate.

Unlike the president, there is no constitutional limitation on the number of times a person can be elected vice president. However, constitutional scholars and lawyers disagree whether a twice-elected former president can be elected vice president. Since no former presidents have ever tried running for vice president, the issue has never been tested in court.

What is the maximum term a president can have?

A president can have a maximum of two four-year terms, so eight years in power.

The 22nd amendment of the United States constitution, ratified in 1951, states: “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice”.

Every former president since George HW Bush left office in 1993 have won two terms in office — so there will be pressure on Donald Trump to carry on that success.

The second term of an American president is commonly referred to as the "lame duck" term.

This is because opponents know they can stop legislation they don't like just by delaying it until the president leaves office.

There were formerly no limits on the number of terms a president could serve in office.

President Franklin D Roosevelt won a record four terms in office from 1933 until his death in 1945.

After he left office the Twenty-second Amendment of the US Constitution was voted through congress on March 21, 1947.

It was approved by the majority of states on February 27 1951.

If a vice president or any senior politician steps in for a president during their term and goes on to serve two years of that presidency, they can only be re-elected once.

State term limits

Term limits for state governors or others within the state executive branch and other high constitutional offices have existed since the beginning of the United States. One of the first such limits of its kind, the Delaware Constitution of 1776, limited the Governor of Delaware to a single three-year term the governor of Delaware can serve two 4-year terms. As of present, there are 36 states have adopted term limits of various types for their governors. One variation allowed a governor to be re-elected, but only to non-consecutive terms. (To circumvent this provision, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, announced in 1966 that voters should elect his wife, Lurleen Wallace, their next governor. It was clear during the campaign that Mrs. Wallace would be a governor in name only, and thus she was elected the first female governor of Alabama.)

Beginning in the 1990s, term limit laws were imposed on twenty state legislatures through either successful ballot measures, referenda, legislative acts, or state constitutional changes. The Maine legislature was the first state to enact legislative term limits in 1993.

Since 1997, however, six state legislatures have either overturned their own limits or state supreme courts have ruled such limits unconstitutional. In 2002 the Idaho Legislature became the first legislature of its kind to repeal its own term limits, enacted by a public vote in 1994, ostensibly because it applied to local officials along with the legislature.

State legislatures with term limits

States with legislative limits
Legislature Limits in effect Year limits imposed Year limits took effect
Arizona Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 4 terms (8 years)
1992 H: 2000
S: 2000
Arkansas Legislature 12 consecutive years can return after a four-year break 1992, 2014, modified 2020 H: 1998
S: 2000
California Legislature 12 year cumulative total, in either or both 1990, modified 2012 A: 1996
S: 1998
Colorado Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 2 terms (8 years)
1990 H: 1998
S: 1998
Florida Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 2 terms (8 years)
1992 H: 2000
S: 2000
Louisiana Legislature H: 3 terms (12 years)
S: 3 terms (12 years)
1995 H: 2007
S: 2007
Maine Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 4 terms (8 years)
1993 H: 1996
S: 1996
Michigan Legislature H: 3 terms (6 years)
S: 2 terms (8 years)
1992 H: 1998
S: 2002
Missouri Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 2 terms (8 years)
Amendment 13 (1992)
(also see: Amendment 3 (2002)
H: 2002
S: 2002
Montana Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 2 terms (8 years)
1992 H: 2000
S: 2000
Nebraska Unicameral S: 2 terms (8 years) 2000 S: 2008
Nevada Legislature A: 6 terms (12 years)
S: 3 terms (12 years)
Initiative passed in 1996, took effect with those elected in 1998 A: 2010
S: 2010
Ohio Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 2 terms (8 years)
1992 H: 2000
S: 2000
Oklahoma Legislature 12 year cumulative total, in either or both 1990 H: 2004
S: 2004
South Dakota Legislature H: 4 terms (8 years)
S: 4 terms (8 years)
1992 H: 2000
S: 2000

Overturned state legislative term limits

The following six legislatures have had their term limits nullified:

  • Idaho Legislature: the Legislature repealed its own term limits in 2002. : the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court overturned term limits in 1997.
  • Oregon Legislative Assembly: the Oregon Supreme Court ruled term limits unconstitutional in 2002.
  • Utah State Legislature: the Legislature repealed its own term limits in 2003.
  • Washington State Legislature: the Washington Supreme Court voided term limits in 1998.
  • Wyoming Legislature: the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled term limits unconstitutional in 2004.


The framers of the Constitution originally considered a lifetime appointment by Congress for the president. When this proposal failed, they discussed whether the president should be elected by either the Congress, the people, or something in between, such as the Electoral College (which was eventually chosen) and whether term limits should be imposed.

The idea of an appointment by Congress, with the option for re-appointment, failed on the fear that a president could make an underhanded deal with Congress to get re-appointed.

America Has a Ruling Class

Why do members of the political elite insist that they’re not?

Mr. Goldman is a political scientist and literary editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review.

America’s most powerful people have a problem. They can’t admit that they’re powerful.

Take Andrew Cuomo. On a recent call with reporters, the embattled Mr. Cuomo insisted that he was “not part of the political club.” The assertion was confounding because Mr. Cuomo is in his third term as governor of New York — a position his father also held for three terms. Mr. Cuomo has also served as state attorney general and as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Or think of Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence. After her appointment was announced, Ms. Haines declared, “I have never shied away from speaking truth to power.” That is a curious way of describing a meteoric career that includes stints at exclusive universities, a prestigious judicial clerkship and important jobs in foreign policy and intelligence before her appointment to a cabinet-level office overseeing a budget of more than $60 billion.

This sort of false advertising isn’t limited to Democrats. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, for instance, has embraced an image as a populist crusader against a distant “political class.” He does not emphasize his father’s career as a banker, his studies at Stanford and Yale Law School, or his work as clerk to prominent judges, including Chief Justice John Roberts. The merits of Mr. Hawley’s positions are open to debate. But his membership in the same elite that he rails against is not.

And it’s not only politicians. Business figures love to present themselves as “disrupters” of stagnant industries. But the origins of the idea are anything but rebellious. Popularized by a Harvard professor and promoted by a veritable industry of consultants, it has been embraced by some of the richest and most highly credentialed people in the world.

Examples could be multiplied, but these cases are enough to show that the problem of insiders pretending to be outsiders cuts across party, gender and field. The question is why.

Part of the explanation is strategic. An outsider pose is appealing because it allows powerful people to distance themselves from the consequences of their decisions. When things go well, they are happy to take credit. When they go badly, it’s useful to blame an incompetent, hostile establishment for thwarting their good intentions or visionary plans.

Another element is generational. Helen Andrews argues that baby boomers have never been comfortable with the economic, cultural and political dominance they achieved in the 1980s. “The rebels took over the establishment,” she writes, “only they wanted to keep preening like revolutionaries as they wielded power.” The tension between boomers’ countercultural youth and adult responsibilities is memorably depicted in films like “The Big Chill.”

Both strategic and generational factors help explain Al Gore, who claimed to represent “the people versus the powerful” in his 2000 campaign against George W. Bush. Compared with a Yale graduate, son of a former president and grandson of a senator, perhaps Mr. Gore — a Harvard graduate, incumbent vice president and son of a senator — did count as one of the common people. But Richard Nixon, an object of boomer hatred, inveighed against the status quo as bitterly as any hippie. Refusal to accept responsibility is not just a boomer quirk. Its roots lie deep in American culture.

Consider “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” the celebrated 1939 film directed by Frank Capra. The plot depicts an honest man who exposes the corruption of public officials and civic institutions at great personal risk. Jeff Smith’s conviction that true power lies elsewhere than in legal authority makes him a pariah in the clubby Senate of the movie. But he would have been right at home on cable news.

The film was effective because it dramatized even older myths. Smith is likened to Honest Abe, the humble rail-splitter who overturned the slave power by announcing the axiomatic truth of human equality. The reality, though, is that Abraham Lincoln was a railroad lawyer and party activist who demonstrated extraordinary ability in back-room dealing and bureaucratic oversight. He was a successful president because he was part of the political club — or at least knew how to join it.

In some ways, Americans’ identification with idealistic rebels is an advantage. There are good reasons to be skeptical of career politicians and entrenched elites. Even when they don’t have all the answers, outsiders can draw attention to unrecognized problems.

That skepticism becomes dangerous, though, when it pits an unconventional affect and good intentions against the practical demands of governing. The defining task of politics isn’t to speak truth to power. It’s to use power to achieve shared goals.

In his 1919 lecture “Politics as a Vocation,” the sociologist Max Weber argued that commitment to moral principles must be combined with an “ethic of responsibility” that aims to deliver results through negotiation, compromise, institutional know-how. Our cult of the outsider makes this balance impossible.

It is hard to change deeply rooted cultural tendencies. But there are strategies that might help us reconcile the performance of disruption with the demands of responsibility.

First, we should stop confusing consumer preferences with power. Popular culture relies on the outdated clichés of starched linens and vaguely British accents to indicate privilege. This anachronism encourages public figures to signal their outsider status with aesthetic posturing. On the left, that often means the vaguely bohemian manner cultivated by Ms. Haines, who once operated a bookstore that hosted readings of erotic literature. On the right, it tends to involve exaggerated machismo and embrace of working-class signifiers.

But none of this has anything to do with power. We should judge public figures by the arguments they make and the results they deliver, not whether they eat caviar, kale or capocollo.

Next, we need to learn from historical figures who embraced Weber’s “ethic of responsibility.” Challenges to the so-called great man theory of history redirect attention from those who made decisions to those who experienced their consequences. The problem is that reading history only “from the bottom up” deprives us of models for navigating dilemmas of vision and responsibility, intention and outcome. We honor and study consequential historical figures because they were flawed human beings who made incredibly hard decisions. Canceling their stories and monuments prevents us from understanding why they succeeded — and failed.

Finally, we need to be honest: America has a de facto ruling class. Since World War II, membership in that class has opened to those with meritocratic credentials. But that should not conceal the truth that it remains heavily influenced by birth. Even if their ancestors were not in The Social Register, Mr. Cuomo, Ms. Haines and Mr. Hawley were born to families whose advantages helped propel their careers. Admitting the fact of noblesse might help encourage the ideal of oblige.

But there’s a limit to what can be accomplished by exhortation. Ultimately, the change must come from the powerful themselves. Just once, I’d like to hear a mayor, governor or president say: “Yes, I’m in charge — and I’ve been trying to get here for my entire life. I want you to judge me by how I’ve used that position, not by who I am.”

Samuel Goldman is the executive director of the Loeb Institute for Religious Freedom and director of the Politics and Values Program at George Washington University, literary editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review and a contributing editor at The American Conservative. He is the author, most recently of “After Nationalism: Being American in an Age of Division.”

How will the home change under Ms. Harris and Mr. Emhoff?

On Jan. 20, Ms. Harris became the first woman, first Black person, and first person of Asian descent to be sworn in as the vice president of the United States. And if history is an indicator, she and Mr. Emhoff will put their own mark on the house.

“Think about this, who has lived in that home for the better part of 45-plus years, white males, and here comes this completely different person,” Mr. Denyer said, adding that Ms. Harris’s arrival will put a “much needed spotlight” on the home.

Following the inauguration and while repairs are being completed on Number One Observatory Circle, CBS News reported that the couple temporarily moved into Blair House, a guesthouse near the White House that is often used for visiting heads of state.

Eyes will also be on Mr. Emhoff, who will take on a position that traditionally has been defined by hosting and decorating for the holiday, as well as robust work like caring for military families and developing healthy eating habits for children.

In a video on Twitter, Mr. Emhoff said he was honored and humbled to be the first man to hold the role and said he would make it his own. “So, I do want to set an example for those in the future who can look back at the way I’ve approached it and hopefully that’ll help them as well,” he said.

So Where do We Stand Now?

Four states, Florida, Alabama, Missouri and West Virginia have passed USTL’s applications specific to the single subject congressional term limits. Fifteen states (indicated as medium blue on the map) have passed congressional term limits specific language as part of a multi-subject application. To eliminate all legal uncertainly and positively impose term limits on the U.S. House and Senate, USTL is fighting to pass our single-subject congressional term limits application in 34 states.

To date, we have passed chambers in Utah, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina, in addition to the states we passed completely (Florida, Alabama, Missouri and West Virginia). In 2021, we have introduced resolutions in at least 17 states and passed through many more committees. To see which single subject term limits resolutions are currently actively progressing in states, visit our TAKE ACTION page.

One thing is clear. The individual states understand their role balancing power as the fourth branch of government. They understand their obligation and are taking action to impose term limits on Congress. Every day we are one step closer to our goal!

Order of Presidential Succession

The U.S. Constitution and the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 outline the presidential order of succession. The line of succession of cabinet officers is in the order of their agencies&rsquo creation.

If the President of the United States is incapacitated, dies, resigns, is for any reason unable to hold his/her office, or is removed from office, he/she will be replaced in the following order:

  1. Vice President
  2. Speaker of the House
  3. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  4. Secretary of State
  5. Secretary of the Treasury
  6. Secretary of Defense
  7. Attorney General
  8. Secretary of the Interior
  9. Secretary of Agriculture
  10. Secretary of Commerce
  11. Secretary of Labor
  12. Secretary of Health and Human Services
  13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  14. Secretary of Transportation
  15. Secretary of Energy
  16. Secretary of Education
  17. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  18. Secretary of Homeland Security

Presidential Succession Act of 1947

In 1947, American President Harry Truman signed the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 into law, setting up the order of succession in case a sitting president dies or becomes incapacitated. In this order, those in the line of succession are the Vice President, Speaker of the House, and the President pro tempore of the Senate. If the above are not present, next in line are the Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, and Secretary of Defense. The Attorney General is seventh followed by the Secretary of the Interior, then Secretary of Agriculture, and Secretary of Commerce. If all of the above are absent, the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the Secretary of Homeland Security respectively stand in this line. In addition to this order, the US has a designated survivor who is a random person in the succession order that must be at least some physical distance away when all the members of the succession line are together to guarantee continuity of government if all the members of the order die at the same time. Such times include during Presidential inaugurations and state of the union address. The designated survivor normally receives full presidential security for the period that he or she is the designated survivor.

The history of the Trump Administration and sanctuary cities

Even though the Trump Administration is wrong on sanctuary cities, it has repeatedly tried to attack them — and immigrant communities.

Sessions’ lawsuit against California

In March 2018, Sessions announced that he was filing a lawsuit against California and state policies which he deemed too immigrant friendly. Except, as Mark Joseph Stern at Slate wrote:

Sessions didn’t have the guts to go after California’s principal sanctuary law because he would undoubtedly lose. Instead, he has targeted three secondary policies that make up a small portion of the state’s broader immigration regime. Even if Sessions succeeded in overturning all three laws, California would remain a sanctuary state. But he probably won’t succeed in killing any of them. Perhaps this lawsuit is just another desperate attempt to win back President Donald Trump’s affections.

Sessions is targeting 1) a rule that bars California law enforcement agencies from sharing information about undocumented immigrants, 2) a state law that protects immigrants from workplace raids, and 3) an act allowing the California attorney general to inspect immigration detention facilities within the state. Stern noted that all three components of Sessions’ lawsuit effort are likely doomed, saying:

Sessions, a self-proclaimed defender of states’ rights, is seeking to undermine states’ ability to conduct their own affairs. He is intruding upon California’s police powers and undermining its protection of civil rights because he dislikes the state’s laws. Sessions may wish that every state would accede to his policy agenda. But he can’t use the Constitution to make them obey his commands.

Recently, the Department of Homeland Security and Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan have threatened local elected officials themselves for actions they’ve taken and actions their jurisdictions have taken to protect immigrants. As the ACLU wrote, these threats are “lawless and baseless”. Moreover:

The idea of these prosecutions is insidious. At bottom, the administration’s complaint is that localities are adopting policies with which it disagrees. This idea of locking up elected officials for their political speech, beliefs, and votes is contrary to the First Amendment and the democratic principles on which our country was founded. Even the suggestion is dangerous and reprehensible.

Sessions’ Department of Justice letters

In April 2017, Sessions sent a letter to nine jurisdictions (one state, four cities, and four counties), telling them to get their sanctuary policies right with the Trump Administration, or else lose part of a $265 million grant intended to help police and prosecutors.

Except the threat in Sessions’ letter was ignorant of how immigration law works. What Sessions’ letter wanted the jurisdictions to do was obey a 1996 statute that says a city/county/state cannot prevent an official from talking to the feds about the immigration status of an individual. Almost every city and county in the country is in compliance with this requirement, including those that the Trump Administration considers to be sanctuary cities. That part of the law is not even in dispute – yet Sessions for some reason saw fit to put jurisdictions on notice over it.

What Sessions (and Trump) ultimately want, of course, is for cities and counties to hold undocumented immigrants for ICE pickup and detention. But as explained above, when an immigrant has committed no crime, holding them for ICE is not consistent with current law, and cities and counties can be held liable for violating immigrants’ rights. Sessions was unable to explain away this incoherence during a meeting with the mayors of the cities he targeted , and the mayors eventually left confused. On a number of immigration issues, “we hear very different messages from (Homeland Security), DOJ and also the White House,” said Jorge Elorza, the Mayor of Providence, RI. “Just give us clarity and please have one, clear policy so we can know where we stand.”

In addition, for all of about two weeks, the Trump Administration published a weekly report of cities and counties that, in its opinion, operated illegal sanctuary policies. Except, as explained above, cities that don’t hold immigrants for ICE are operating in accordance with the law, while cities that do hold immigrants for ICE are behaving unconstitutionally – even though this is the opposite of what the Trump Administration wants to be true. A number of cities and counties clapped back against the Trump Administration for trying to name and shame them even though they were just following the law, forcing the Administration to apologize to a number of them and – after just a couple of weeks – stop publishing the reports altogether.

Trump’s executive order trying to defund sanctuary cities

In January 2017, Trump signed an executive order calling on sanctuary cities to comply with federal immigration law or else have federal funding pulled. But in April, a San Francisco judge blocked the order , saying that the president had overstepped his powers by trying to tie billions in federal funding to immigration enforcement, and that only Congress could place such conditions on spending. The judge also noted that federal funding conditions must be tied to the policy in question – for example, housing funds cannot be conditional on immigration laws.

Just as the judge striking down Trump’s Muslim ban did , the San Francisco judge used the words of the Trump Administration against itself , to prove that the intent behind Trump’s executive order was something other than what the government’s lawyers claimed in court. Once more, the big mouths behind Trump and his Administration are helping to defeat their own policies.



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