As legislation, this is nothing but a stupid and futile gesture. As a campaign tactic in 2022, it might have a bit more value for House Democrats, but even that’s arguable. In a desperate attempt to change the subject from the economy, House Democrats led by Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) have submitted a new bill to apply term limits to the Supreme Court while attempting to get around the Constitution to do so:

A group of House Democrats introduced a bill on Tuesday to enact term limits for Supreme Court justices, arguing that the move will “restore legitimacy and independence to the nation’s highest court.”

The legislation, titled the Supreme Court Tenure Establishment and Retirement Modernization Act, would authorize the president to nominate Supreme Court justices every two years — in the first and third years after a presidential election. The justices who have been on the court the longest will be moved to senior status first.

Get it? Supreme Court TERM Act? TEEEEERRRRRRRMMMMMMM? It’s not a legitimate exercise in Congress without a stupidly didactic acronym, after all.

If confirmed by the Senate, those individuals would serve a maximum 18 years on the bench. After their tenures are complete, the Supreme Court justices would retire from active service and assume senior status.

Justices on the bench at the time of the bill’s enactment would switch to senior status one by one as justices are confirmed to the bench in the first and third years after a presidential election.

Under senior status, justices will still hold their office on the Supreme Court, which includes official duties and pay. If the number of justices dips below nine at some point — because of a vacancy, disability or disqualification — the justice who most recently attained senior status would serve as the ninth associate justice.

The “senior status” is a thin dodge to get around Article III Section 1 of the US Constitution, but it won’t work. This statute would directly contradict the plain language of that clause, which guarantees that federal judges “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour,” which means a lifetime appointment. The offices in question in this case are the Supreme Court Justice offices to which they have been appointed and confirmed. Forcing them out by term limits is the same whether they’re pushed out entirely or called “justice emeritus” or “senior status”; any status that removes them from the actual function of Justice would contradict the Constitution.

Even if this passed into law, it wouldn’t take effect. Why? Because (a) it so obviously contradicts the Constitution, and (b) who do you think gets to make that call? Federal judges, that’s who. The Supreme Court likely wouldn’t even need to touch it — district court judges would instantly torpedo it, and all appellate jurists would have to do is refuse to hear appeals of its overturning.

Anyway, this may not even pass the House, let alone get through a 50/50 Senate. So why bother? It makes for a very handy topic for House Democrats in the home stretch of the 2022 midterm cycle. They think that the Supreme Court and the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe gives them an advantage over Republicans — and that might have been true in a normal economic and political environment.

The problem for Democrats and this Supreme Court TERM Act is that no one cares about this at the moment. Democrats and media analysts have not come to grips with the current political environment, where runaway inflation has gone on for well over a year and a Democratic president has hit low-to-mid-30s in both job approval and favorability ratings. We haven’t seen an electoral cycle like this in 42 years. This isn’t 2010, 2014, or 2018, where the economy was relatively stable and inflation not even a concern, and which still produced majority-shifting electoral outcomes in the House and/or Senate.

The more Democrats talk about anything else but the economy, the more out of touch they sound to American households caught in the vise of the worst sustained economic situation they’ve faced in decades, led by the least-popular president since Jimmy Carter. Silly performative stunts like the TERM Act not only make them look desperate, it makes it look like they’re out of ideas on the issues that matter. And … that perception would be entirely accurate.

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