A spirited, extensive debate during the Constitutional Convention in 1787 discussed presidential term limits but ultimately did not limit the number of terms a president could serve, although it did determine the length of each presidential term. The first president of the United States, George Washington, served two terms, setting a precedent that lasted until 1940.

Executive Branch Limits

Article II, Section I of the Constitution sets each presidential and vice-presidential term at four years. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution establishes the expiration date of each presidential term as January 20th in the year following an election. Following the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected to four terms, the 22nd Amendment was proposed and ratified. This amendment limits a president to two terms in office and specifies that a vice president who succeeds to the presidency can serve two additional terms if the term during which he or she succeeded his or her predecessor had less than two years remaining when he or she rose to the office.