FACT CHECK: Ocasio-Cortez Says The Constitution Was Amended To Stop FDR’s Re-Election
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez claimed during a Friday interview with MSNBC that in order to prevent President Franklin D. Roosevelt from being re-elected “they had to amend the Constitution of the United States.”
The 22nd Amendment, which set presidential term limits, was not passed and ratified until years after Roosevelt died, though it was inspired by his election to four terms. Roosevelt died in April 1945, nearly three months after beginning his fourth term as president.
Ocasio-Cortez talked to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes during a televised interview on Friday. Discussing the Green New Deal, an audience member asked the New York congresswoman, “What are the lessons from the New Deal that we can bring in today?”
“When we look into our history, when our party was boldest – the time of the New Deal, the Great Society, the Civil Rights Act and so on – we had and carried super majorities in the House, in the Senate. We carried the presidency,” Ocasio-Cortez responded. “They had to amend the Constitution of the United States to make sure Roosevelt did not get re-elected.”
The 22nd Amendment was added to the Constitution to limit the president to two terms in office. It passed a Republican-controlled Congress in March 1947 and was ratified by the states in February 1951.
“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 the President more than once,” the 22nd Amendment says.
However, Roosevelt died in April 1945, months after being sworn in for his fourth term as president and two years before Congress passed the amendment. He had been re-elected three times total – once in 1936, then in 1940 and again in 1944.
Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to a request for comment, but she tweeted a defense of her claim, citing an article from Newsweek. The article casts doubt on news outlets that called her claim false, but Newsweek included a suspect tweet from “Miami Spice, MD,” an unverified Twitter user with 33 followers.
The tweet falsely suggested that the 22nd Amendment had been making its way through the legislative process before Roosevelt was re-elected, but failed to get ratified in time. “But it was not ratified soon enough and he won ’44,” reads the tweet. “AOC did not mispeak [sic], friends.”
FDR did die in office in ’45 and the 22nd amendment did come in ’47 but congress did start the legislative process in 1944 prior to his death so that he would not be reelected but it was not ratified soon enough and he won ’44. AOC did not mispeak, friends https://t.co/ozmUH31FuT
— Miami Spice, MD (@DoctorAyy) March 31, 2019
While Republicans did campaign on such an amendment, adopting the slogan “no crown for Franklin,” the legislation was not introduced until after Roosevelt’s death, when Republicans took control of Congress in 1947 after years in the minority.
According to a copy of the 1947 Congressional Digest provided by Professor David Orentlicher of the University of Nevada- Las Vegas, some states passed resolutions calling for presidential term limits prior to the 1940 election, in which Roosevelt won an unprecedented third term. However, Congress “took no action during the Roosevelt regime, and, with the war at a high pitch in the next election year, 1944, Roosevelt was inaugurated for a fourth term,” it said.
“Dewey raised the issue on the campaign trail in 1944, and the Republican Party Platforms in 1940 and 1944 called for presidential term limits, but the 22nd Amendment was not introduced until early 1947 (January or February) after Republicans won control of the House and Senate in the 1946 mid-term elections,” Orentlicher told The Daily Caller in an email.
The amendment made an exception for the sitting president, so had it been ratified during Roosevelt’s tenure, the amendment would not have applied to him anyway.
Newsweek did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The 22nd Amendment was indeed a reaction to Roosevelt’s tenure as president, but it did not affect his ability to be re-elected. “The 22nd Amendment couldn’t have prevented FDR from winning his third and fourth terms,” Orentlicher told the Caller.
“Roosevelt was dead by then so it can’t be said it was done as anything except a kind of post-mortem slap at the man they couldn’t beat in life,” Professor Garrett Epps of the University of Baltimore told the Caller in an email.
Roosevelt is the only president in U.S. history to have been elected to more than two terms as president.