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Section Three states, “Whenever the president transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and 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.

Presently the President pro tempore of the Senate is the very aged Senator Patrick Leahy, and the Speaker of the House is the octogenarian Nancy Pelosi. The sections of the amendment become more complex with successive sections.

Section Three deals with a willing surrender and re-acquisition of power. Section Four deals with an unwilling surrender of power. Several issues require clarification, e.g. with whom does the president consult to determine his inability, and with whom to reclaim his presidential powers. Nowhere in the amendment’s text is the Physician to the President mentioned. However, subsequent discussions by experts, and the standard operating procedures of the WHMU have assumed that the aforementioned doctor would be closely involved.

How has Section Three been Implemented?                                                                                                                                               Ronald Reagan was confronted with a Section Three situation twice, once after his assassination attempt, and once during surgery for colon cancer. Both situations were handled inappropriately according to the 25th amendment. After John Hinkley’s assassination attempt in March 1981, the inexperienced Reagan staff was clueless, a situation compounded by the absence of VP George Bush. Many remember the trembling Chief of Staff Alexander Haig asserting on national TV, “I am in charge.”  The presidential physician was not included in any discussion; papers of disability and a return to ability were neither drafted nor transmitted.                                                                           Colon Cancer Operation: Early in his second term, Reagan did submit the requisite letters but sidestepped the invocation of Section Three, by asserting he didn’t think that the amendment was applicable in his case. The letter was drawn up by his Counsel and Attorney General. Again, his physician was not involved .

President George W. Bush invoked Section Three twice, both times appropriately, when he was sedated for colonoscopies. His physician, Colonel Dick Tubb was intimately involved and the appropriate letters were transmitted both times both before and after the procedures.

President Donald Trump did not consider implementation of the amendment during his hospitalization with COVID 19.

Joe Biden. Wait and see.

Lud Historian
  • Al Melvin
    Posted at 18:20h, 06 March Reply

    Lud, thank you for your excellent write-up on the 25th Amendment. It was very informative. It may come into play very soon. R/ Al Melvin

  • Al Melvin
    Posted at 18:23h, 06 March Reply

    Lud., thank you for the recap on the 25th Amendment. It may have to be used very soon. Al Melvin

  • Warren Braun
    Posted at 09:20h, 09 March Reply

    Very helpful overview. A certain VP might be very interested by the opportunity afforded in this Amendment.

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