About the 25th Amendment

  • 20 February 2017
  • NormanL
About the 25th Amendment

With the left openly pondering (if not pining) for a way to remove President Trump from office, and with congressional Democrats urging the base to cool it on talk of impeachment, look for even more attention to focus on the obscure 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

According to the Library of Congress, the Amendment, adopted in 1967, set out to make it clear under what circumstances a vice president could assume the presidency:

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. The practice had been well established that the Vice President became President upon the death of the President, as had happened eight times in our history. Presumably, the Vice President would become President upon the removal of the President from office. Whether the Vice President would become acting President when the President became unable to carry on and whether the President could resume his office upon his recovering his ability were two questions that had divided scholars and experts. Also, seven Vice Presidents had died in office and one had resigned, so that for some twenty per cent of United States history there had been no Vice President to step up. But the seemingly most insoluble problem was that of presidential inability—Garfield’s lying in a coma for eighty days before succumbing to the effects of an assassin’s bullet, Wilson an invalid for the last eighteen months of his term, the result of a stroke—with its unanswered questions: who was to de- termine the existence of an inability, how was the matter to be handled if the President sought to continue, in what manner should the Vice President act, would he be acting President or President, what was to happen if the President recovered. Congress finally proposed this Amendment to the states in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, with the Vice Presidency vacant and a President who had previously had a heart attack.

The Amendment saw multiple use during the 1970s and re- sulted for the first time in our history in the accession to the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of two men who had not faced the voters in a national election. First, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973, and President Nixon nominated Gerald R. Ford to succeed him, following the procedures of § 2 of the Amendment for the first time. Hearings were held upon the nomination by the Senate Rules Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, both Houses thereafter confirmed the nomination, and the new Vice President took the oath of office December 6, 1973. Second, President Richard M. Nixon resigned his office August 9, 1974, and Vice President Ford immediately succeeded to the office and took the presidential oath of office at noon of the same day. Third, again following § 2 of the Amendment, President Ford nominated Nelson A. Rockefeller to be Vice President; on August 20, 1974, hearings were held in both Houses, confirmation voted, and Mr. Rockefeller took the oath of office December 19, 1974.

There is nothing in the Amendment about removing a president because his personality is grating, or causes reporters to loose sleep at night. 

And there is absolutely nothing about removing a president because it would make some people feel good about themselves again.

Those on the left looking to get rid of the President, then, would be far better served building a case for an alternative, grooming candidates, and proposing alternatives -- in short, doing what parties out of power have done since the founding of the Republic. But that requires a lot of hard work, and may fail.

Their dreamy insistence that Mr. Trump be tossed out in what would effectively be a coup is dangerous. Seeking to pervert the Constitution to their fever dreams is only further evidence that they have lurched beyond mere oppostion, and "resistance." Rather, they appear ready to embrace the banana republic version of government. 

Somewhere in hell, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro must be smiling.