21 Jan THE TWENTY FIFTH AMENDMENT
A PRIMER TO THE 25th AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
Donald Trump recently completed his first comprehensive medical examination as United States President. Before and immediately after this event, the mainstream media made a big fuss over the applicability of the 25th Amendment to his ability to function as president. In my opinion, in no way did it or does it apply. However, a brief explanation of its components may be useful to understand what the controversy is all about.
The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967. Its passage was very quick, influenced when Vice President Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency upon John Kennedy’s assassination; this left the country without a vice president (and immediate successor) should Johnson die or become incapacitated. It consists of four articles.
Article One: The sitting Vice President ascends to the presidency upon the death or resignation of the sitting president. Vice President John Tyler first invoked this when President William Harrison expired in 1841.
Article Two: A procedure was established to insure that the Vice Presidency is never left vacant. In 1973, Gerald Ford was nominated by Richard Nixon and confirmed by the Congress after Spiro Agnew resigned the Vice Presidency.
Article Three: Voluntary Transfer of Power: When a President foresees that he (she), temporarily or permanently cannot fulfill the duties of the office, a letter to this effect transfers the duties and authority of the Office of President to the Vice President. This has been activated once unofficially and twice officially. Unofficial Transfer: Ronald Reagan was scheduled to undergo colon cancer surgery. VP Bush assumed the office although the prescribed papers were not signed. Official Transfer: twice during his presidency, GW Bush transferred the authority to VP Dick Cheney when the former underwent a colonoscopy.
Article Four: Involuntary Transfer of Power: This established a mechanism wherein the presidential physician is required to consult with the Vice President and others when the President is incapacitated bur refuses to acknowledge his (her) disability. Then the cabinet and/or others so established, can remove the President and install the Vice President. The President may subsequently determine that he (she) has resumed the fitness to serve the Office. The procedure to regain power is extremely complex. The Fourth Article has never been invoked.