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The people of the United States were horrified watching the riot take place at the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021. Americans are calling for out-going President Donald Trump to be subjected to the 25th Amendment of the Constitution. His ardent supporters gathered in Washington D.C. to protest the election’s certification, and he told them to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and tell the legislators exactly how they feel.
Trump had to know what the outcome would be; after all, his supporters were armed and angry. Much discussion has taken place about using the 25th Amendment throughout the president’s tenure for one reason or another. However, after today’s act of insurrection and sedition by Trump, his cronies, and supporters the outcry is louder than before.
Enacting the 25th Amendment seems to be a logical move at this point since Trump’s lies and actions caused thousands of crazed people to wreak havoc. There were physical altercations between police and the rioters. He sat in the Oval Office tweeting about Vice President Mike Pence refusing to give him the election. Trump knew full well that the VP’s role in the vote certification.
All of these contrary behaviors make using the 25th Amendment sensible — after all, he has the nuclear codes.
The Nuts and Bolts of the 25th Amendment
The 25th Amendment of the United States Constitution did not exist until after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, leaving the country leaderless. Congress moved to establish a formal succession line, which was not previously outlined by the Founding Fathers.
Congressional members created an official set of procedures if either the president or vice president could not complete their term in office, in the occurrence of removal, resignation, incapacitation, or death. The historical timeline leading up to the creation of the amendment:
After President William Harrison died on April 4, 1841, there was a great debate over the succession of the presidency. Article II; section 1, clause 6 was vague. Essentially, Vice President John Tyler acted as president but held no authority to use the associated powers. No change to the Constitution was made at the time.
The next time succession came into question is after President James A. Garfield was shot during an assassination attempt on July 2, 1881. He teetered between life and death for almost three months. Again, there was much discussion about the matter. No changes were made in reference to an amendment creating a formal line of succession.
President Grover Cleveland boarded a yacht and cruised Long Island Sound for five days, June 30 – July 5, 1893. He did not tell his V.P. or other members of the government his cruise was a cover for surgery — he was incapacitated under anesthesia to remove a cancerous growth from his mouth.
He recovered at his summer home until the 17th when he returned to the yacht for another surgery. During each of his surgeries, there was no one minding the responsibilities of the presidency. No one knew of the particulars of that month until 1917 when the doctor’s disclosed the information during an interview with the “Saturday Evening Post.”
- This Amendment was first used in the 1970s after the Watergate break-in when Vice President Spiro Agnew was forced to resign. A year later, Gerald Nixon left office. The 25th Amendment of the United States Constitution:
- Section 1 The Vice President shall assume the office of the Presidency upon the President’s death, removal, resignation, or is incapacitated.
- Section 2 This Amendment can be used when the Vice President’s office is vacant; the President shall nominate someone to fill that office. This person shall only be confirmed after a vote by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
- Section 3 If the President is unable to fulfill his oath of office for any reason, he must submit in writing to both the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. The VP will become an acting president until the POTUS submits a written document he can fulfill the duties of the Presidency.
- Section 4 At any time the President is unable or unwilling to submit to Congress, he can not fulfill his Oath of office, the VP and a majority of the cabinet can invoke the 25th Amendment by submitting a decoration to the House Speaker and the Senate head that the President is not fit to discharge his duties. The VP then will then assume the leadership role.
The 25th Amendment ensures the U.S. will have leadership at all times, which protects the country’s national security. If the leader of the free world suddenly takes ill and is incapacitated in any way, the VP and the cabinet will present documentation to Congress, and the Vice President shall immediately be sworn in.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
25th Amendment: The Law council
Fordham Law Review: The Proposed Twenty-Fifth Amendment To the Constitution
History.com: Vice President Agnew resigns
Images by Gage Skidmore Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License