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Amendment 25th to the US Constitution: Precedents and applicability.


After the repercussions of President Donald Trump’s provocation of a riot at the U.S. Capitol, there are fresh debates for removing a sitting president. The first is impeachment and the second is the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Impeachment is for egregious abuse of the powers of the office whereas the 25th Amendment is concerned with some kind of impairment that renders a president unable to do his job.


The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution addresses what happens to the presidency and vice-presidency if the president and/or vice president dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated or disabled. Passed by Congress on July 6, 1965, the 25th Amendment was ratified by the states on February 10, 1967. Invoking the 25th Amendment has always been controversial, especially Article 4, which allows for the removal of a president who is deemed incapacitated by any kind of illness, including mental illness or injury.


The amendment has the following four sections:

  • Section 1, states that if the president dies or resigns, the vice president shall become president.

  • Section 2, states that in the event of a vice-presidential vacancy, the president will nominate a vice president who will be confirmed by a majority Congressional vote.

  • Section 3 set forth the formal process for determining the capacity of the president to discharge the powers and duties of the office. If the president is able to declare his/her inability, then the vice president takes over as the acting president.

  • Section 4, states that the vice president and the cabinet to jointly ascertain if the president is unable to declare his/her incompetence. In this case, the vice president immediately assumes the position of acting president.


The same section also empowers the president to submit a written declaration to the contrary and resume presidential powers and duties unless the vice president and a majority body of Congress declare in writing within four days that the president cannot perform his duties, in which case Congress will vote on the issue.


The need for such an amendment came to light when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and there was confusion about whether Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson had also been injured and, if so, who would take their places in the line of succession. Thus, On July 6, Congress passed a joint resolution and forwarded it to the states for ratification and the amendment was ratified on February 10, 1967. President Johnson signed the 25th Amendment into law on February 23, 1967.


Portions of the 25th Amendment have been invoked several times. For instance, in 1973, Spiro Agnew became the first vice president to resign due to scandal after being charged with political corruption. The 25th Amendment required then-President Richard Nixon to nominate a new vice president for Congressional approval.


Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has never been used, although the Reagan administration came close when President Reagan was shot and undergoing surgery, his administration prepared the necessary papers to invoke the 25th Amendment and make Vice President George H.W. Bush acting president.


It is this fourth section of the 25th Amendment that many are asking Vice President Pence to invoke against President Trump. Raising the 25th Amendment will involve Vice President Pence and members of the cabinet coming together in agreement to move forward to remove Donald Trump from office. There may not be enough time left to invoke the provision, with less than two weeks before the new administration is sworn-in. If Trump objects to losing his powers, the Cabinet gets four days to try to overrule it, and then Congress could take weeks to debate and make a decision.



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