Ever since President Donald J Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, talk in Washington has been laser-focused on his health. This week, erratic behavior in public and online has shifted that focus to his mental health and fitness. On Wednesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said it’s time to talk about the 25th Amendment.
Pelosi Insists the Discussion is Not About Trump
In the press conference held Friday morning, Pelosi 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 America’s history, our leaders have created and strengthened guard rails in the Constitution to ensure stability and continuity of government in times of crisis. The 25th Amendment creates a path for preserving stability if a president suffers a crippling physical or mental problem and is, ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’ and transfers his powers. Specifically Section 4 of the Amendment that empowers Congress to set up an independent body to confront such a crisis.”
Pelosi continued, “Congress has a constitutional duty to lay out the process by which a president’s incapacity, a president of any party, is determined. This bill honors the duty by creating a standing commission of top former executive officials and medical experts, selected in a bipartisan, bicameral way. A president’s fitness for office must be determined by science and fact.”
What is the 25th Amendment?
Simply put, the 25th Amendment exists to protect the country from a president who is unable to discharge his or her duties by creating a clear line of succession. This prevents instability or insecurity in the event that the president is out of commission.
DailyDot defines the Amendment in simple terms; “Essentially, the 25th Amendment provides the rules for what to do if your democratically elected leader is all of the sudden M.I.A. The resignation of President Richard Nixon and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, both of which occurred during the latter-half of the 20th century, are the most recent times the 25th Amendment has been invoked.
But there’s also a last-ditch, emergency method for removing the president buried within the 25th Amendment. The extremely detailed fourth article, or section, of the 25th Amendment describes the process by which the vice president and the highest levels of government can intervene in case the president is ruled mentally or physically unfit for office.”
Why Would the 25th Amendment Be Invoked Here?
Critics have been questioning the fitness of President Trump since he entered office. Trump’s tendency to shoot from the hip and speak his mind has often led to situations where he sounds unhinged or unfocused. While supporters suggest that it’s just his personality, the question of Trump’s mental fitness has persisted. Now that his erratic behavior has increased in the past week, the 25th Amendment is being seriously discussed by those in power for the first time.
The medications used to treat coronavirus have unknown effects, especially on someone of Trump’s age and in a position of power such as the presidency. The 25th Amendment could be invoked to temporarily allow Vice President Mike Pence to take over for the president until he has returned to his former state of mental fitness.
Has the 25th Amendment Been Used Before?
Ratified and signed into law in 1967, the 25th Amendment has indeed been invoked three times before. However, every previous time it was invoked for physical ailments, not mental fitness.
Pelosi Says it’s Not About Trump, but the Timing Says Otherwise
With Election Day weeks away, the Democrats have reason to not want to be seen to attack Trump. With a significant lead in the polls among likely voters, they benefit from seeming gracious and magnanimous. Part of this lead seems to have stemmed from the fact that Trump has continued his popular ’16 campaign strategy of attacking his opponents personally and relentlessly, while Biden and Harris have focused more on policy. It would make sense that Democrats in Congress in tight races would avoid taking direct pot shots at Trump’s mental stability. So whether or not Pelosi says this commission has anything to do with Trump, the message is clear: the Democrats are waiting for Trump to slip up, but for now they’re content with their lead.