Understanding the 25th Amendment

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Since the election of President Donald J. Trump, the possibility of impeachment has been a center of national discussion. Whether or not allegations of collusion of Russia or a taped confession of sexual assaults are grounds for impeachment is up for debate, but one thing is clear: the topic of impeachment is one that is not going away any time soon.

Throughout the country, impeachment marches are taking place, including an event in downtown Indianapolis. Calling for Congress to take a stand on what some perceive to be a corrupt administration, participants in the march are arguing for Congress and the presidential cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment.

So, what does the 25th Amendment actually do?

The Amendment was introduced after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. It provides guidelines for replacing a president or vice president in the event of death, resignation, or incapacitation.

Section Four of the Amendment allows for the sitting vice president and a majority of Congress to temporarily remove the president from his or her post if they are deemed unfit to serve:

“Whenever the vice president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the vice president shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

From there, a congressional vote must take place to determine whether or not the president is fit to serve. If Congress votes to remove the president from his elected office, the vice president would continue to serve as acting president. 

(Photo by JA Bedell)

The first and last time the 25th Amendment was invoked was the transition of power between President Richard Nixon and his Vice President Gerald Ford. While the Watergate scandal is what eventually brought Nixon down, fears among his cabinet members that Nixon’s paranoia and alcohol abuse could result in the 37th president ordering a nuclear strike called Nixon’s capacity to lead into question.

Proving the sitting president of the United States is mentally unfit to serve the office is a difficult process. Although it has rarely occurred in our history, those arguing that President Donald J. Trump ought to be removed from office are not the first group of voters calling for a sitting president to be removed.

There are a lot of questions to be asked regarding the 25th Amendment and how it relates to the Trump administration. How does one prove that he is mentally unfit? How long would the legal proceedings take? And, on the off chance the 25th Amendment is actually invoked, what would a Mike Pence presidency entail?


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