Washington: President Donald Trump's role in inciting violence at the Capitol and his refusal to acknowledge his election defeat is prompting some lawmakers to urge his removal from office through the 25th Amendment.
The amendment allows for the Vice-President and a majority of the Cabinet to declare a president unfit for office. The Vice-President then becomes acting president. The section of the amendment specifically addressing this procedure has never been invoked.
Lyndon B Johnson is sworn-in as 36th President of the United States, as Jackie Kennedy stands beside him, after the assassination of John F Kennedy. Credit:JFK Library
Has the 25th Amendment been invoked before?
Yes, presidents have temporarily given up power, but those instances have been generally been brief and voluntary, for example when the president was having a medical procedure.
In 2002, President George W. Bush became the first to use the amendment's Section 3 to temporarily transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney while Bush was anaesthetised for a colonoscopy. Section 4 of the amendment, which allow the Cabinet to declare the president unfit, has never been invoked.
George W. Bush briefing reporters on June 28, 2002 on the colonoscopy he would have the next day. His Vice-President, Dick Cheney, assumed acting command for a few hours. Credit:Reuters
How can the cabinet declare the President unfit?
The 25th Amendment's Section 4 lays out what happens if the president becomes unable to discharge his duties but doesn't transfer power to the vice-president.
The vice-president and majority of the Cabinet can declare the president unfit. They then would send a letter to the speaker of the House and president pro tempore of the Senate saying so. The vice-president then becomes acting president.
The president can send his own letter saying he is fit to serve. But if the vice-president and majority of the Cabinet disagree, they can send another letter to Congress within four days. Congress would then have to vote. The president resumes his duties unless both houses of Congress by a two-thirds vote say the president is not ready.
Vice-President Mike Pence could briefly assume command and replace President Donald Trump if a two-thirds majority of Congress agrees to enact section 4 of the 25th Amendment, but it is not swift. Credit:AP
Congress is adjourned until Monday. But if they returned tomorrow, it would take a minimum of four more days to be enacted.
There are 13 days until Preident-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.
Isn't there some other legislation about this?
Section 4 of the amendment also gives Congress the power to establish a “body” that can, with the support of the vice-president, declare that the president is unable to do the job. If they agree the president is unfit, the vice-president would take over. But Congress has never set up the body.
In October, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced legislation that proposed the creation of a commission to fill that role. The legislation would set up a 16-member bipartisan commission chosen by House and Senate leaders. It would include four physicians, four psychiatrists and eight retired public figures such as former presidents, vice presidents and secretaries of state. Those members would then select a 17th member to act as a chair.
After the commission was in place, Congress would be able to pass a resolution requiring the members to examine the president, determine whether the president is incapacitated and report back.
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