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Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution

The Twenty-second Amendment (Amendment XXII) of the United States Constitution sets a term limit for the President of the United States. The United States Congress passed the amendment on March 21, 1947. It was ratified by the requisite number of states on February 26, 1951.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served from 1933 to 1945, is the only president elected to more than two terms. Under the 22nd amendment it would be possible for a president to serve two full four-year terms after having assumed the Presidency by means other than election for a duration of up to two years. No president besides Roosevelt has ever served more than eight years exactly, however.


''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.


Historians point to George Washington 's decision not to seek a third term as evidence that the Founders saw a two-term limit as convention and a bulwark against a monarchy; his Farewell Address, however, suggests that it was because of his age that he did not seek reelection. Thomas Jefferson also contributed to the convention of a two-term limit; in 1807 he wrote, "if some termination to the services of the chief Magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution, or supplied by practice, his office, nominally four years, will in fact become for life. Jefferson’s immediate successors, James Madison and James Monroe, also adhered to the two-term principle.

Prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt, few Presidents attempted to serve for more than two terms. Ulysses S. Grant sought a third term in 1880 after serving from 1869 to 1877, but narrowly lost his party's nomination. Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to the presidency upon William McKinley's assassination and was elected in 1904 to a full term himself, serving from 1901 to 1909. He sought to be elected to a (non-consecutive) third term in 1912 but lost to Woodrow Wilson. In 1940, FDR became the first person to be elected more than twice; supporters cited the war in Europe as a reason for breaking with precedent. In the 1944 election, during World War II, he won a fourth term, but died in office the following year.

After Roosevelt's death, the newly Republican 80th United States Congress desired to establish a firm constitutional provision barring presidents from being elected more than twice. The rationale was a concern that without limits, the presidential position could become too similar to that of a benevolent dictator lasting not just four years but a lifetime, and that the position could become too powerful and upset the separation of powers. Hence, the Twenty-second Amendment was adopted.

Criticism of the amendment

Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed concern over the erosion of a second-term president's power and influence, as the president becomes a political lame duck. The term was coined by 18th century English stockbrokers to mean someone who is bankrupt, but later came to mean anyone who has been made weak and ineffective. It now most often applies to politicians who are soon to leave office. This effect was referred to by President George W. Bush when, after winning his second term, he told the media "I'm going to come out strong after my swearing-in. We have to move quickly, because after that I'll be quacking like a duck.

Interaction with the Twelfth Amendment

Some have questioned the interpretation of the Twenty-second Amendment as it relates to the Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, which provides that "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."

While it is clear that under the Twelfth Amendment the original constitutional qualifications of age, citizenship, and residency apply to both the President and Vice President, it is unclear if a two-term President could later be elected—or appointed—Vice President. Some argue that the Twenty-second Amendment and Twelfth Amendment bar any two-term President from later serving as Vice President as well as from succeeding to the presidency from any point in the United States presidential line of succession. Others contend that while a two-term President is ineligible to be elected or appointed to the office of Vice President, he or she could succeed from a lower position in the line of succession which he or she is not excluded from holding. Still others contend that the Twelfth Amendment concerns qualification for service, while the Twenty-second Amendment concerns qualifications for election. Neither theory has ever been tested, as no former President has ever sought the Vice Presidency, and thus, the courts have never had an opportunity to decide the question.

Individuals restricted by the amendment

The Amendment prohibits any person who has succeeded to the Presidency and served as President or as Acting President for more than two years of their predecessor's unexpired term from being elected more than once. Since the Amendment's ratification, the only President who could have served more than two terms under this circumstance was Lyndon B. Johnson. He became President in 1963 when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, served only 14 months of Kennedy's term, and was elected President in 1964. Had Johnson stayed in the race in 1968 and won, he would have served nine years and two months in all when he reached the end of the new term. The amendment specifically excluded the sitting president (Harry S. Truman) at the time it was proposed by Congress. Truman, who had served most of FDR's unexpired fourth term and who had been elected to a full term in 1948, began a campaign for a third term in 1952, but quit after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary. The five Presidents who have served since the Amendment's ratification and became ineligible for election to a third term are Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Gerald Ford became president on August 9, 1974 and was in office for more than two years of the unexpired term of Richard Nixon. Had Ford won a full term in 1976 (he narrowly lost to Jimmy Carter), he would have been barred from being elected again despite only being elected once. No Vice President was elected to serve two full terms as President after assuming the Presidency after the death or resignation of a President. Theodore Roosevelt unsuccessfully sought a second term four years after serving a full term after succeeding William McKinley.

Current restrictions and limitations

As of 2008, the following former and current living Presidents are restricted by this amendment:

As of 2008, the following former Presidents are permitted to be elected for one more term:


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