A gray, rainy day in the ATX — a good day to trim trees?
So, lately we’re been hearing a lot of talk about the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. Let’s do some research, shall we?
Here’s a picture of the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia hammering out the Constitution. The US Constitution was drafted over a period of 116 days from 25 May 1787 to 17 September 1787.
The American Revolution ended on 3 September 1783. It took a long time to finalize the Constitution and it had a provision to amend it.
First, contrary to the talking heads, the 25th Amendment was not the work of the Founding Fathers. I listened to an idiot on Fox News for half an hour talking about what the Founding Fathers intended.
The 25th Amendment was submitted to the states on 6 July 1965. It was ratified on 10 February 1967.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment
Here is is:
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
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.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
What does that mean, Big Red Car?
There are four big takeaways:
1. When the President is removed from office (impeachment as an example), resigns, or dies, the Vice President becomes President (not “acting” President).
2. When the Vice President’s office is empty, the President appoints his successor subject to the confirmation of the Congress.
3. The President may declare he is unable to discharge the duties of his office, be temporarily replaced, and re-assume his duties when no longer unable to ” . . . discharge the duties of his office.” This has happened several times in recent history. In this instance, the Vice President becomes the “acting” President.
4. The President may be removed from office by the declaration of the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet officers that the President is ” . . . unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
If the President demurs and says he is able to ” . . . discharge the powers and duties of his office,” the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet may again declare the President ” . . . unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and the Congress shall ratify this by a two-thirds vote.
The Trump Cabinet
The Trump Cabinet consists of the following persons:
Mike Pence, Vice President
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State
Steve Manchin, Secretary of the Treasury
Patrick M Shanahan, Secretary of Defense
William Barr, Attorney General
David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Interior
Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture
Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce
Alex Acosta, Secretary of Labor
Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation
Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy
Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security
There are fifteen Cabinet officers and the Vice President. In order to initiate the removal from office contemplated by Section IV of the 25th Amendment, it requires eight of the fifteen Cabinet members to join the Vice President in declaring the President is “. . . unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Do you realistically see this happening with this bunch? Do you see the Vice President starting this ball rolling?
Bottom line it, Big Red Car
The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the US Constitution is a short, simple amendment. It spells out the circumstances upon which a President can be removed from office when he is ” . . . unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
It requires the Vice President to initiate it. It requires a majority of the Cabinet to join with him. It requires a two-thirds vote of the Congress to ratify it. This is a very high hurdle.
In the current discussion amongst members of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation about wearing wires, recording the President, and creating a Twenty-fifth Amendment crisis what is missing is even a tiny shot of reality.
The DOJ/FBI is not part of any Twenty-fifth Amendment discussion. One has to ask why they were engaged in such a discussion in the first place. It certainly sounds treasonous — in a generic sense of that word, please.
The linchpin to it all is the Vice President of the United States. Not. Going. To. Happen.
It is silly to watch people speculate about something that is never going to happen. If you don’t agree with a President’s policy decisions, that is not the standard contemplated by the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. That standard is ” . . . unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That is a performance standard, not a policy standard.
If you don’t agree with the President’s foreign policy, or the recent tax cut, or you don’t like his haircut — that is not what is contemplated by the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Sorry.
And, now you know.