Pelosi Announces Bill To Create 25th Amendment Commission To OK A President’s Capacity To Serve

by 24USATVOct. 10, 2020, 7 a.m. 27
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—amid ongoing questions about President Trump’s health—announced Friday legislation to create a permanent Congressional committee that would determine if the 25th Amendment, which details the constitutional rules for presidential succession, should be invoked when a president is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."

The commission would have 16 members, half chosen by Republican lawmakers and half by Democratic lawmakers, and one chairperson. Half of the commission members would be doctors and half would be high-ranking former executive office officials who would work in concert with the vice president. The commission’s role would be to determine if a president is unable to fulfill his or her “powers and duties.” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 210,000 Americans and “ravaged the White House staff,” has made it clear there needs to be a way to determine “what happens if a president, any president, ends up in a coma or on a ventilator and has made no provisions for the temporary transfer of power.” The bill would need to be approved by the House and Senate and signed by the president so it is unlikely it will go into effect.

"This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of voters. But he shows the need to create a process for future presidents," Pelosi said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the proposal “absolutely absurd,” Friday. “Again, right here in the last three weeks before the election, I think those wild comments should be largely discounted," he said.

When asked Friday if Trump has met the threshold to invoke the 25th Amendment, Pelosi said, “That’s not for us to decide.” At a press conference Thursday, Pelosi implied the impetus is the administration’s evasiveness about the president’s health. Pelosi asked Trump to disclose when he last tested negative for coronavirus and why his administration has not told Americans “that important fact about how this made a hotspot of the White House.”

Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution says the vice president assumes the "powers and duties" of president if the president is unable to because of death, resignation or “inability,” but it doesn’t say how “inability” is determined or how the role of vice president should be filled. Motivated by the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Congress sought to fill in those gaps with the 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967. Section four of the 25th Amendment says if the president is unable to write a declaration saying he is unable to serve, the vice president and a majority of the principal officers of the executive departments or “such other body as Congress” may send a declaration to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to say the president is unable to perform his duties and the vice president will immediately become acting president until the president writes a written declaration saying he is well, which can be vetoed. The Presidential Succession Act signed by President Harry Truman in 1947 outlines the order of succession should the president need to be replaced: first it is the vice president, then Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Senate president pro tempore and then a string of Cabinet members, starting with the secretary of state.

Pelosi Says House Democrats Will Talk About The 25th Amendment Friday (Forbes)

Here’s How The 25th Amendment And Presidential Transfer Of Power Works (Forbes)

The Complete Trump Covid-19 Timeline: What We Know About The President’s Diagnosis—And What We Don’t (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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