Study Guide

Constitution - 22nd Amendment

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22nd Amendment

Passed by Congress: 21 March 1947
Ratified: 27 February 1951

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 President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by 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.

The Constitution of 1787 set no term limits on the President of the United States. However, George Washington—the first president, and one who could have made himself president-for-life if he wanted to—voluntarily retired from office after two terms, establishing an informal two-term limit that lasted for nearly 150 years. Then Franklin D. Roosevelt got himself elected president four times in a row, serving from 1933 until he died in office in 1945. Most Americans at the time loved Roosevelt and were happy to have him stay in the White House to help guide the country through the difficult challenges of the Great Depression and World War II. After FDR was gone, however, many people began to think that the two-term limit really had been a good thing; it didn't seem healthy for a democracy to be led by the same individual for decades at a time. So the Twenty-second Amendment turned George Washington's example into official constitutional law; today no president can serve more than two full terms. (A vice president who serves out less than two years of his predecessor's term is allowed another two terms of his own, which means that it is theoretically possible for one individual to serve a maximum of ten years in the White House; in more normal circumstances, eight years is the max.)

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.

The Twenty-second Amendment was ratified about four years after it was passed by Congress, making Section 2 irrelevant.

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