U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin unveiled legislation Friday to create a commission that would be empowered by the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to act in concert with the Vice President Mike Pence to strip the president of his duties.
Pelosi announced the legislation after she called on the Trump administration earlier this week to disclose more information about the health of President Donald Trump, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Clearly he is under medication. Any of us who is under medication of that seriousness is in an altered state,” Pelosi told reporters Friday on Capitol Hill. “He has bragged about the medication he has taken and, again, there are articles by medical professionals saying this could … have an impact on judgment.”
Pelosi also said the introduction of the measure was not directed at Trump but rather an effort to codify procedures to help protect the security of the country in the future.
“This is not about President Trump,” she said. “He will face the judgment of the voters, but he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents.”
Raskin, who is also a constitutional lawyer, said Trump’s COVID-19 infection “has focused everybody’s mind on the need for following through on this suggestion in the 25th Amendment that Congress set up its own body. And I think again in the age of COVID-19, where a lot of government actors who have been afflicted by it, we need to act.”
Trump took to Twitter after the legislation was unveiled, saying “Crazy Nancy Pelosi is looking at the 25th Amendment in order to replace Joe Biden with Kamala Harris. The Dems want that to happen fast because Sleepy Joe is out of it!!!”
Opponents of the president have for some time considered invoking the amendment. Introducing the measure at this time, however, appears intended to focus public attention on Trump’s health and his administration’s handling of the coronavirus just weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election.
Congress is not in session, casting doubt on whether lawmakers will seriously consider the legislation and bring it to a vote in the House or in the Senate, where Trump’s Republican party is in the majority. Nor is there any indication that Pence would be willing to participate in a move to replace Trump.
The 25th Amendment, which provides for continuity of government, includes a provision under which the vice president and a majority of cabinet secretaries can declare the president unable to perform his duties. In that case the vice president immediately becomes acting president.
The amendment also allows for the Congress to create a new body in place of the cabinet secretaries which, together with the vice president, could declare the president unable to perform his duties. In either case, the president can challenge the declaration and reclaim his office.
If the vice president and the cabinet secretaries or the new body created by Congress again declare the president unable to perform his duties, the Congress can again transfer his powers to the vice president with a two-thirds vote.
25th Amendment, Article 4
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.