Democrats Introduce Bill Creating 18-Year Supreme Court Term Limits, Nominations Every Two Years

A handful of House Democrats on Tuesday introduced long-shot legislation to fundamentally reshape the Supreme Court, which comes amid pressure from progressives to take action over a recent Court decision that left in place a controversial Texas abortion law.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) would create 18-year term limits for Supreme Court justices, though it would not apply to justices currently serving.

The bill would also give presidents the ability to nominate a new justice every two years and require the Senate to act on each nomination within 120 days before the nominee is automatically seated.

There is debate among constitutional scholars as to whether such reforms require a Constitutional amendment: Thomas Berry of the libertarian Cato Institute argues the term limits are a “close call” but the Senate deadline is “no doubt” unconstitutional.

Beyer spokesperson Aaron Fritschner told Forbes the lawmakers are confident the bill passes constitutional muster in an “academic/legal analyst sense,” but added that the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, could strike it down anyway: “There is an X factor on basically everything, obviously.”

Packaging the reforms as a bill, rather than a constitutional amendment, means they can pass with just a simple majority in the House – though the bill would still be unlikely to pass the Senate, where support from 10 Republicans is needed to overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold.

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