POINT OF VIEW: A ‘President Pence’ for 10 years? It could happen

Feb 05, 2018

Both Democrats and Republicans should be keenly aware of the timetable established in Amendment XXII, Section 1, of the United States Constitution — especial those of either party who foresee an end to the Donald J. Trump presidency happening before the present four-year term comes to a close.

Regardless of which side of the aisle someone identifies with, a small adjustment in the timing of the transition to a Mike Pence presidency will be important to them. It could add or subtract four years to Pence’s eligibility to hold our nation’s highest office.

Republicans should ensure that President Trump lasts until at least Jan. 21, 2019, and Democrats should push for his resignation or removal before then. The next president will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2021, and two years prior to that day is meaningful. Amendment XXII, Section 1, says, “…and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.”

Essentially, a Pence presidency could last nearly 10 years if Trump lasts long enough to make that possible. Conversely, Pence could be constitutionally limited to just more than six years of eligibility if Trump’s exit happens before Jan. 20, 2019.

This is important because a sitting president has an enormous advantage over a challenger in media coverage. The incumbent travels with a press corps, and is covered daily whether in residence or not. Assuming the Mike Pence re-election team uses this advantage wisely, Vice President Pence could one day become the second-longest-sitting president in U.S. history. Republicans will have had 12 years in the White House if that happens.

Democrats will want to shorten a Pence presidency, and Republicans will want to lengthen it. Both need to know this small piece of the U.S. Constitution and form their strategies accordingly.

TIMOTHY HULLIHAN, NORTH PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: Timothy Hullihan is an architect and board member of Sustainable Palm Beach County. He wrote this for The Palm Beach Post in memory of his father, William F. Hullihan, a former Florida Atlantic University professor and constitutional scholar.