What is the 25th AmendmentOn January 18, 2021 by Walter Spickler
If you have been keeping up with the news over the past week, you’ve probably heard people talking about the 25th amendment. You probably know at least that it involves the Vice President getting the President getting removed from office, which Mike Pence has stated he does not believe “is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution”. However, there is actually a little more to the amendment and many different interpretations that could mean many different things.
The 25th Amendment is the one that says the Vice President succeeds the President. It also says that the new president (The old vice president) can nominate their own Vice President and must be confirmed by both Houses of Congress by a majority. This means that should the new president die in office then the person that they appointed will be the president of the United States without being elected. This will likely never happen because while 8 of the 44 presidents have died in office, (giving you an 18% chance of death) no Vice President has died after the President but there have been times when there is just no Vice President.
Now onto the part about the Vice President declaring the president inable. What the amendment says is that if the Vice President can get a majority of the President’s cabinet members to declare in writing that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” then a 21 day countdown begins where the Vice President is the Acting President. The president will be able to challenge this and if the cabinet members write again that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office then the 21 day countdown starts. In these 21 days there are two options: one requires each house of Congress by a two thirds majority vote to affirm that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties therefore officially ending his presidency. The other option is either congress does nothing or does not have enough votes to remove the president from office. Once the 21 days are up, assuming Congress did not vote to remove the president, then he resumes his presidency.
In the current case, since Donald Trump only had 20 days in office, technically all Mike Pence would have to do is get a majority of the cabinet members to say the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office and then Mike Pence would have served out the rest of his term as president with all the powers and duties. Since normally the President and Vice President are on good terms this has never happened before, even when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and was completely unable to do anything. Out of the four ways a president can be removed from office, this one has never happened and will likely never happen. The bottom line is that there are so many crazy hypothetical scenarios surrounding presidential succession that any of them would be a mess to sort out should they ever happen.