Could Bill Clinton Be President Again? Here’s a Scenario for Bill’s Third Term
Policy + Politics

Could Bill Clinton Be President Again? Here’s a Scenario for Bill’s Third Term

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Most of us don’t know much about the U.S. Constitution, but a few rules are universally understood. One is that presidents can only be elected twice.

OK. What about vice presidents?

As it turns out, there are no term limits for vice president other than those in the Twelfth Amendment, which states, "No person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States." So Hillary could choose Al Gore or Joe Biden for example.

Got it. But why is this relevant?

Let’s say Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 and nominates her husband Bill for vice president. He meets the basic criteria for eligibility of president, according to the constitution as ratified by the Twelfth Amendment in 1804.

Related: Why Clinton Will Win in 2016 but Lose in 2020

How could that be?

All that original amendment stipulated was that a candidate be at least 35 years old, be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years — and yes, be born here.

What if something happened to Hillary?  

Well, here’s where it gets fuzzy. Let’s play it out. Here’s a scenario: For whatever reason, after winning the election Hillary steps down from the office of president six months into her first term. Bill Clinton takes over for three-and-a-half years. The Dems are not exactly thrilled, but they don’t challenge the move. Republicans, however, go nuts and file a lawsuit, which goes all the way to the Supreme Court.

Isn’t it obvious that the GOP wins this one?

Not necessarily. The 22nd amendment reads as follows:: “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, 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.” Note the word “elected.”

Related: How the GOP Took Biden Out of the Race -- and Gave the Election to Clinton

So Bill Clinton could serve out the rest of his wife’s term?

Maybe. Unless the Supreme Court rules the intention of the amendment was to prevent even an unelected two-term president who became veep from serving in that capacity. Of course, if that were the case, the lawsuit would have been filed long before and most likely adjudicated before the 2016 election.