Supreme Court Term Limits Have Bipartisan Support But Lawmakers Hate It

Term limits for Supreme Court justices have growing support among the public and experts but lawmakers from both sides oppose them in Congress, The Washington Post reports.

Biden earlier this year appointed a bipartisan commission of legal scholars to examine possible reforms to the court amid Democratic calls to expand the number of justices. The commission issued a report highlighting the bipartisan popularity of term limits for justices while noting “profound disagreement” about adding justices to the bench.

Public opinion polls have similarly found strong support for term limits. A Marquette Law School poll in November found that 72% of voters back term limits compared to just 27% who oppose them.

Biden appointed the commission after Democrats accused Republicans of packing the court. Republicans refused to hold hearings on Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland after the death of Antonin Scalia for nearly a year. They later rushed to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat with Amy Coney Barrett just days before Trump’s election loss.

Both parties oppose:

Democrats in Congress don’t like the idea because it may require a constitutional amendment.

“It takes years to work through the state legislatures,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told the Post. “We don’t have years when the Supreme Court is gutting voting rights, gutting union rights, gutting the equal protection clause and signaling that it’s going to overturn Roe.”

Warren has called to expand the Supreme Court, though that idea has not caught on with many Democrats either.

Former Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham also told the Post he doesn’t “like” the idea of term limits.

“I like to have somebody as insulated from politics as possible,” Graham said. “I think the system has worked well. I don't see a need to change it. The reason they're talking about changing it is because, you know, Democrats lost elections, which have consequences.”

Justices appear open:

Though no Supreme Court justices have publicly backed the idea of term limits, some have expressed openness to the idea.

Justice Stephen Breyer, who is facing Democratic calls to retire so Biden can fill his seat, said in 2019 that term limits of 18 years “would make life easier.”

“I wouldn’t have to worry about when I’m going to retire or not,” Breyer said. “That would be easier for me. And moreover, it must be long. And the reason that it must be long is because you don’t want somebody looking for his next job after — while he’s a member of the court.”

Justice Elena Kagan also appeared open to the idea in 2018.

“I think that what those proposals are trying to do is to take some of the high stakes out of the confirmation process, and certainly to the extent that that worked, and that people could feel as though no single confirmation was going to be a life-or-death issue, that that would be a good thing,” she said. “So I think it’s a balance among good goals.”


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