Congress is "moving to appoint Barack Obama to a third term" in 2016 See Example( s )

Collected via e-mail, October 2014

Saw a post on Facebook that said "Congress moves to appoint Obama to a third term in 2016" True or false?




On 10 October 2014, the dubious American News web site published an article titled “Congress Moves to Appoint Obama a Third Term in 2016.” This item was simply a retitled version of an identical article the site had published on 27 July 2014 under the title “Obama to Force Congress to Let Him Run for an Illegal 3rd Term in 2016.” Neither of those American News items included much in the way of factual information; they were both rather shallow summaries of an old Washington Post op-ed piece run below sensationalistic, misleading headlines that allowed them to garner attention via social media postings.

For the sake of accuracy, we would point out that:

  • Congress cannot “appoint” anyone to the presidency of the United States, third term or otherwise, and so there is no current “movement” to do so. Presidents are chosen by state electors, who are selected via popular vote every fourth year. Congress plays no part in that process (unless no candidate should receive a majority of electoral votes, in which case the House of Representatives votes to select a President from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes).
  • The 22nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution, enacted in 1951, precludes any person from being elected to the office of the President more than twice.
  • The President has no authority or power to compel Congress to allow him to run for a third term. The only scenario under which a President could seek a third term would be if the terms of 22nd amendment were repealed or modified, which would require another amendment to the Constitution. Constitutional amendments are proposed by Congress and enacted once they have been ratified by the legislatures of at least 38 states. The President plays no part in this process.

The content of the American News article references a 28 November 2013 Washington Post op-ed piece penned by Jonathan Zimmerman, Professor of History and Education at New York University, not a report of Congress or President Obama actually taking any action towards enabling a third-term administration. In that editorial, Zimmerman presented his viewpoint that the two-term limitation on the presidency detrimentally allows lawmakers free rein to be uncooperative with second-term presidents (because legislators have little to fear by defying a president who cannot be re-elected), and that second-term presidents are also free to ignore the will of the public (because they need not fear being voted out of office, as they are barred from running again).

Zimmerman’s argument wasn’t specific to Barack Obama; he stated that in his opinion, all candidates should be able to stand for election to the presidency regardless of how many terms they might already have served in that office:

It’s time to put that power [to elect the president] back where it belongs. When Ronald Reagan was serving his second term, some Republicans briefly floated the idea of removing term limits so he could run again. The effort went nowhere, but it was right on principle. Barack Obama should be allowed to stand for re-election just as citizens should be allowed to vote for — or against — him. Anything less diminishes our leaders and ourselves.


Bell, Tom and Susan Cover.   “If Marden’s Is Open, Maine Is Open.”
The Portland Press Herald.   18 January 2011.

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