Donald Trump suggested last week, perhaps jokingly, that the Constitution should be amended to allow him to be president for 16 years or longer, Pale Blue News is reporting. This would mark the second time in his presidency that he’s suggested, even in jest, that he may be interested in being president longer than the Constitution allows.
This time, his remarks attracted little notice, compared to similar remarks he made in March (more on that in a couple of paragraphs). Speaking on Thursday to a group of reporters at the White House, the 45th president talked up the progress his administration his made on job growth, tax cuts, cutting regulations, and other accomplishments. He then suggested that giving him more time in office than the Constitution currently allows should be the way to go.
“We’ve cut more regulations in a year and a quarter than any administration, whether it’s four years, eight years or, in one case, 16 years. Should we go back to 16 years? Congressman, can we have that extended? The last time I jokingly said that, the papers started saying ‘he’s got despotic tendencies!’ No, I’m not looking to do it, unless you want to do it.”
With the words “the last time I jokingly said that,” Trump was referring to a March incident in which he appeared to praise Chinese president Xi Jinping’s career track that would essentially give him the presidency for the rest of his life. As CNN reported at the time, Chinese law had recently been changed to repeal term limits on the country’s head of state. Trump joked that it was a good thing.
“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”
Trump’s “joke” did not go over particularly well at the time. CNN writer Chris Cillizza noted that Trump has long been a fan of leaders with “despotic tendencies.”
“Leaders from Turkey, Thailand and Egypt have all won plaudits from Trump. And then there is, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Trump has treated with kid gloves even as the US intelligence community unanimously confirmed that Russia was behind an elaborate attempt to meddle in the 2016 election.”
Whether joking or not, if Trump is truly interested in being president beyond two terms – the limit imposed by the Constitution – he’s going to face an uphill battle. Amending the Constitution is a complex and time-consuming process, and requires a significant political will that probably doesn’t exist at the moment.
Specifically, as The National Constitution Center explains, either two-thirds of both houses of Congress, or two-thirds of the legislatures of the states (34 of them), must call for an amendment. Then, three-quarters of the states (37 of them) would have to ratify the amendment.
In fact, so tedious and difficult is the process of amending the Constitution that it’s only been done 27 times in the 200-plus-year history of the document. What’s more, the first 10 (The Bill of Rights) were all added at once, in 1791; excluding those 10 amendments, the Constitution has only been amended 17 times in 227 years.
The 22nd Amendment, enacted in 1951, limits the president to two terms in office.