Pelosi Introduces Bill to Establish a Commission to Examine the President’s Physical & Mental Fitness Under the 25th Amendment
Should Congress establish a commission to examine the president under the 25th Amendment?
by Causes | 10.9.20
What’s the story?
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) held a press conference on Friday to announce the introduction of legislation drafted by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) to establish a commission tasked with examining the president’s physical and mental capacity to serve in office under the 25th Amendment. Raskin introduced a similar bill during the last session of Congress.
- The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination to clarify that the vice president becomes president (not acting president) following the death, resignation, or removal of the president, in addition to setting up procedures for dealing with permanent or temporary presidential disability.
- Under Section 4 of the Amendment, Congress is empowered to establish a permanent “body” that acts under the vice president which can declare the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” However, Congress has not acted to establish the commission since the 25th Amendment’s ratification.
How would the commission work?
- The bill Raskin and Pelosi are introducing would establish that commission once and for all, which would be a 17 member, non-partisan body composed of four physicians, four psychiatrists, eight former high-ranking executive branch officials, and a chair selected by the 16 members appointed by the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
- To avoid conflicts of interest, none of the commission’s members could be current elected officials, federal employees, or members of the active or reserve military.
- In emergency situations, Congress could pass a concurrent resolution compelling the Commission to examine the president, determine his or her capacity to execute the powers and duties of the office, and report findings to Congress in coordination with the vice president within 72 hours. If the president is incapacitated, the vice president would assume the role of acting president.
- If the vice president disagrees with the commission’s declarations or conclusions that would be included in the report to Congress, and any refusal by the president to undergo an examination would be taken into consideration by the commission in reaching its conclusion.
What are they saying?
- At the press conference for this bill’s introduction, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said:
“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of the voters. But he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents. Throughout our history, our leaders have created and strengthened guardrails in the Constitution to ensure stability and continuity of government during times of crisis.”
- President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday:
“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!!!”
How has the 25th Amendment been used?
- It has been invoked six times since then, three of which were related to vacancies in the office of the president and vice president during the Nixon administration.
- The latter three resulted in the vice president becoming the acting president while the sitting president underwent medical procedures requiring anesthesia:
- President Ronald Reagan transferred power to Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1986 while he underwent a colonoscopy, but did so while taking steps to avoid creating a binding precedent for his successors.
- President George W. Bush underwent a colonoscopy in 2002 and transferred power to Vice President Dick Cheney for two hours, and did so again for another colonoscopy in 2007.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
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