In the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump supporters storming the Capitol building, which houses both the US Senate as well as the House of Representatives, there are calls by many to either impeach President Trump or invoke the 25th Amendment.
What is the 25th Amendment of the US Constitution?
This amendment lays out how a US president and vice president may be succeeded or replaced.
According to Cornell Law School, “The Twenty-fifth Amendment was an effort to resolve some of the continuing issues revolving about the office of the President; that is, what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the President and what is the course to follow if for some reason the President becomes disabled to such a degree that he cannot fulfill his responsibilities.”
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, while the first section codified the traditionally observed process of succession in the event of the death of the president—that the vice president would succeed to the office—it also introduced a change regarding the ascent of the vice president to president should the latter resign from office.
“In the event of resignation, the vice president would assume the title and position of president—not acting president—effectively prohibiting the departing president from returning to office,” states Britannica.
The second section of the amendment addresses vacancies in the office of the vice president.
The third section of the amendment set forth the formal process for determining the capacity of the president to discharge the powers and duties of office.
If the president is able to declare his/her inability, then the vice president takes over as the acting president.
In case the president is unable to declare his/her incompetence, the fourth section of the amendment requires the vice president and the cabinet to jointly ascertain this and if they do so, then the vice president immediately assumes the position of acting president.
It is this fourth section of the 25th Amendment that many are asking Vice President Pence to invoke against President Trump.
When was it introduced and has it been used in the past?
In the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 25th Amendment was proposed by Congress on July 6, 1965, and ratified by the states on February 10, 1967.
According to Cornell Law School, “The Watergate scandal of the 1970s saw the application of these procedures, first when Gerald Ford replaced Spiro Agnew as Vice President, then when he replaced Richard Nixon as President, and then when Nelson Rockefeller filled the resulting vacancy to become the Vice President.”
However, the fourth section of the 25th Amendment has never been invoked.