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What the 25th Amendment says about presidents who are ‘unable’ to serve

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A stunning, unsigned op-ed in The New York Times reported on Sept. 5 that members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet discussed removing him from power by using the 25th Amendment, but decided against it to avoid causing a “constitutional crisis.”

As a law professor who studies the presidency, I have written extensively on the 25th Amendment.

Interest in this form of presidential removal may be high, but evidence suggests it could not be used successfully against Trump at this point.

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What is the 25th Amendment?

The U.S. Constitution has always specified that if the president suffers an “inability to discharge” his powers, the vice president takes over. But it supplied no details on how, exactly, this might be done.

The 25th Amendment, added in 1967, defines what happens if a president becomes “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

The president may declare himself unable to do his job and empower the vice president temporarily. Both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush used this process before being sedated for surgery.

Alternatively, the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet may deem the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and transfer power to the vice president. The president may later declare himself able and try to retake power.

But if the vice president and Cabinet object within four days, and are backed by two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate, the vice president stays in power.

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Impeachment and the 25th Amendment

The latter provision, which constitutes Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, is the “complex process for removing the president” referred to by the anonymous New York Times op-ed writer.

Section 4 has never been used. But it was seriously considered once.

In 1987, during a changeover in staff, President Reagan’s incoming team was advised to think about using Section 4. Mired in scandal, recovering from surgery and discouraged by Republicans’ disastrous results in the 1986 congressional elections, Reagan had become so disengaged that staffers reportedly signed his name to documents he’d never even read.

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Reagan soon bounced back, showing himself quite capable of discharging his powers and duties. His new staff dropped any consideration of Section 4.

My understanding is that “unable” means being incapable of wielding power – not using it destructively. When a president misuses his powers, impeachment is the Constitution’s designated remedy.

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By design, successfully using Section 4 requires much more support than impeachment, which needs just majority support in the House and two-thirds in the Senate. Displacing the president using the 25th Amendment, on the other hand, requires the additional support of the vice president, the Cabinet, and more of the House.

Because President Trump currently has enough support to avoid serious impeachment efforts, Section 4 seems wholly unfeasible.The Conversation

By Brian Kalt, Professor of Law and Harold Norris Faculty Scholar, Michigan State University

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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Video app Zoom rockets to fame, with some hiccups, amid pandemic

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What does British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have in common with virtual happy hour celebrants and thousands of students around the world?

All use the Zoom videoconferencing application to get together while staying apart during the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

But amid its newfound fame, the Silicon Valley-based company has come under stepped-up scrutiny over how it handles privacy and security -- including allowing uninvited guests to barge in on sessions.

Created by engineer Eric Yuan in 2011 and listed on the Nasdaq a year ago, Zoom has seen its market value skyrocket to some $35 billion.

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Knife attack leaves two dead in French town of Romans-sur-Isère, mayor says

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Two people were killed and four others injured in a knife attack in the southeastern French town of Romans-sur-Isère on Saturday, the mayor said.

The attack took place in the morning outside a bakery where customers had queued, according to Mayor Marie-Hélène Thoraval, who said that the assailant had been arrested.

One of the wounded is in critical condition in hospital.

France is currently in its third week of self-isolation because of Covid-19.

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Trump’s new plan for covering COVID-19 patients has administration officials scrambling once again: report

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According to Politico, President Donald Trump's decision not to reopen the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges, and to instead pay hospitals to treat uninsured coronavirus patients, blindsided not just insurance companies, but his own health officials — and left everyone scrambling to implement his orders.

"The rollout of the new hospital pay program capped a frenetic several days within the administration, prompted by a White House official’s confirmation Tuesday that there would be no reopening of the Obamacare markets," wrote Adam Cancryn, Nancy Cook, and Susannah Luthi. "That declaration surprised even some officials in the Health and Human Services Department, who believed the concept was still under consideration. And amid a crush of criticism from Democrats led by 2020 front runner Joe Biden, it worried officials who viewed the verdict as an unforced error in the middle of a historic pandemic."

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