How Obama’s Possible Third Term Was Thwarted By the 1948 Republican ‘Do Nothing’ Congress
In my self-appointed role as “undercover reporter” at least three times a week I receive emails from Organizing for Action (OFA). This is President Obama’s new never-ending and powerful campaign organization, which up until recently was known as Organizing for America. After reading their emails, I give thanks for the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution. Why? Because if not for bold action that was taken over six decades ago during a very narrow two-year window by a perfectly timed Republican controlled Congress, Obama’s OFA might be preparing for his third term campaign rather than his last mid-term election.
If you don’t happen to have a U.S. Constitution in your pocket, the 22nd Amendment limited the number of four-year presidential terms to only two.
Ironically, the 22nd Amendment was passed by the 80th “Do Nothing” Congress in 1947. It was named as such by President Truman who successfully railed against this Republican controlled Congress during his 1948 presidential campaign.
Then, as a result of President Truman’s victory and subsequent coat-tails, the Republicans lost control of Congress, after gaining it back only two years earlier during the 1946 mid-term elections after 16 years of Democrat control.
Now, from a historical perspective here is what is truly amazing.
Starting in 1949, the Democrats took control of the House, not just for a few election cycles, but for the next 46 years! Republicans would not gain control again until 1995 when House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the 101st Congress into session.
On the Senate side, the Democrats took control in FDR's 1933 sweep. Except for a brief time of shifting control during the 1953-1954 session due to an almost equal number of seats and deaths, Democrats controlled the Senate straight up until 1981.
So with this history in mind, the question is, “If the Republicans had not controlled Congress in 1947–1949 would there have ever been a 22nd Amendment?”
In my opinion, the answer would most likely be “no” for this simple reason:
During those 46 years of House Democrat control it would been politically impossible for Democrats to have passed a Constitutional Amendment limiting presidential terms without it looking like a political slap in the face to the memory of four-term Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was progressively elevated to semi- savior status during the ensuing decades.
The House Republicans in 1947 could not have imagined that they would lose control in 1949 for the next 46 years, but forged ahead making presidential term limits a very high legislative priority early in the session.
Thus, the future 22nd Amendment passed Congress in March of 1947. Then the Amendment went to the states and so began the ratification process which was completed four years later in 1951.
To this day the 22nd Amendment remains controversial as there have been many attempts at repeal occurring as recently as January 2013 from Congressman Jose Serrano (D-NY).
What follows is a list of current/former Congressmen and Senators and the year(s) when they introduced repeal legislation. Notice how this list even includes the current Senate Majority and Minority Leaders.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) 1989
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 1995
Jose Serrano (D-NY) 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2013
Steny Hoyer (D-MD) 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005
Barney Frank (D-MA) 1995, 1997, 1999
Howard Berman (D-CA) 2005
David Dreier (R-CA) 1997
Jerold Nadler (D-NY) 1995
Guy Vander Jagt (D-MI) 1991
Martin Sabo (D-MN) 1991
For the record, none of these repeal attempts have ever gone anywhere. So if history is any guide, those who oppose President Obama need not worry about whether Congressmen Serrano’s latest repeal bill will gain any traction.
Finally, circling back to President Obama, his Organizing for Action is without precedent. For no president has ever had at his command his own political organization -- aside from the national party -- and especially a “lame duck” president, which explains my sudden affection for the 22nd Amendment.
Quite honestly, Organization for Action scares me with its unabashed aggressiveness, continual spewing of falsehoods/ half-truths and use of scare tactics, as it obediently rallies support for President Obama’s agenda at the “grass roots” level, while always justifying its non-stop fundraising.
As is typical, the most recent OFA email I received had the headline, This isn’t meant to scare you, and ended: Let’s finish what we started. Chip in $25 to Organizing for Action, the grassroots movement that will get the job done.
Except this “grassroots movement” is led by Mr. Obama’s uber professional campaign team with its stated goal of raising $50 million for a “national advocacy network.” There was a ruckus recently when it was widely reported, even in the mainstream media that for $500,000 OFA donors would have quarterly access to President Obama. In another words, the White House now has an official elite “pay to play” club masquerading as a “grassroots” organization.
And who knows, but if not for the 22nd Amendment would President Obama be hinting (with wild applause no doubt) at pursuing a third term to “finish what we started” to “get the job done,” despite the state of the economy?
So it is through the 22nd Amendment that I and others who are not fond of our current president/campaigner/organizer-in-chief can take comfort in knowing that he will be vacating the Oval Office on January 20, 2017.
Yes, I will continue reading OFA’s emails and keep thanking the “Do Nothing” Congress of 1947 - 1949 for what they did, which was actually quite substantial and still impacts us today.
Besides passing the 22nd Amendment, thus limiting and changing the power of the presidency forever, the “Do Nothings” created the Air Force, CIA, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and passed the Taft- Hartley Act limiting labor union power, to only name a few pieces of legislation. But most important, this was the Congress that funded the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-torn Europe.
Is it finally time for the “Do Nothing” Congress to be thanked and renamed?