Here's What Happens To Presidential Term Limits After An Impeachment
The beginning of 2020 marks the last year of President Donald Trump's first term, but his time in office could be limited. On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump, paving the way for a Senate impeachment trial in early 2020. The White House has previously characterized the impeachment effort as Democrats' attempt to "weaponize politics," but did not respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the vote. It's unlikely that the Republican-led Senate will vote to remove Trump from office, but let's imagine what would happen if they did. If a president is removed from office, does the vice president get a full term in office? The Constitution briefly addresses this question.
If a president dies, resigns, or is removed from office before their next election, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution indicates that the vice president assumes the presidency. But because the vice president wasn't actually elected to the presidency on their own, their term doesn't start from scratch when they take office, and they don't get a full four years of their own. Instead, they'll simply finish serving out the remainder of the previous president's term, up until the next election. (They can run for re-election, though, if they really want to.)
It is worth noting, however, that the 22nd Amendment effectively imposes a 10-year limit on any individual serving as president. Normally, the president can only serve for two four-year terms, for a total of eight years in office. But if a president is unable to finish out their term and the vice president succeeds them, the 22nd Amendment ensures that they cannot serve as president for more than 10 total years.
For example, suppose Trump is removed from office on March 1, 2020. If this happened, Vice President Mike Pence would assume the presidency and finish out the rest of Trump's term, up until January 2021. In this scenario, Pence would then be able to run for the presidency himself up to two more times, because that would give him less than nine total years in office. If Trump had been removed from office on March 1, 2018, however, Pence would have only been able to run for president one additional term. Otherwise, he would surpass the Constitution's implied 10-year limit. As of January 2020, Trump has not been tried by the Senate as part of impeachment proceedings.
Term limits have been a popular topic in the discussions around Trump's impeachment. Some have wondered, for instance, whether the Senate can hit "reset" on Trump's current term by voting to keep him in office. According to Snopes, a so-called "failed impeachment" — in which an impeached president is allowed to remain in office — does not nullify a president's term. So even if the Senate votes to keep Trump in office, he will only be allowed to hold the office of the presidency for two complete terms, total.
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