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How Does the 25th Amendment Work?

It was never intended as a partisan weapon.

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The Constitution was designed to address a variety of different issues that could arise in the government. But it didn’t originally explain how to deal with a president who became disabled to the point that they are not able to perform their duties. This is where the 25th Amendment comes in.

Removing the President

The 25th Amendment was implemented to determine what happens if the presidency became vacant. It states that in “case of the removal of the president from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.”

The line of succession from the president to vice president is clearly outlined in the document when the person occupying the higher office passes away or resigns. However, the part that people typically argue about is what it says regarding a president who is unable to function in his role. While it states that the vice president would step in if this happens, it does not define the phrase “inability to discharge his duties.”

This has caused a problem because different people might have a different view on what the phrase means. Does it apply if a president gets the flu and can’t get out of bed? Is it only applicable if a president has a mental breakdown? Moreover, the document does not indicate whether a vice president would only take the place of the chief executive until they recover or if they are supposed to serve out the rest of the president’s four-year term.

There have been times in America’s history when a president has used the 25th Amendment to temporarily transfer power to the vice president when they knew they would be unable to do their jobs. President Eisenhower invoked that part of the law with Richard Nixon. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush also transferred their authority to their vice presidents for hours while having surgery.

The part of the 25th Amendment that is being debated now is Section 4, the passage that indicates how the government would handle a president who is no longer able to fulfill his role but refuses to step down. This could be when a president becomes too stressed out to handle the job but chooses to remain in his position because he believes he is functioning properly.

Richard Nixon

In this scenario, members of the president’s cabinet and the vice president would have to declare that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” At this point, the vice president becomes the Acting President. If the president later indicates that he can do his job once again, and the group agrees, he can resume his role as commander in chief. If the group disagrees, then Congress votes to make the decision.

Has This Happened?

No president has ever actually been removed from office using the 25th Amendment. But some have suggested using it to remove President Trump because they do not believe that he is performing his duties correctly. The 25th Amendment was never intended to be used as a partisan weapon, giving the president’s opponents a way to threaten him if they don’t like how he does his job.

The purpose of this amendment was always to give the government a way of functioning even if the president couldn’t do his job. Many who want to see it used against Trump argue that the president is insane and that, because of this, he isn’t capable of doing his job. By their reckoning, it isn’t just that he isn’t doing a good job, it’s that he can’t do the job at all, and therefore the 25th Amendment should apply.

Race Relations & Media Affairs Correspondent at and A self-confessed news and political junkie, Jeff’s writing has been featured in Small Business Trends, Business2Community, and The Huffington Post. Born in Southern California and having experienced the 1992 L.A. Riots up close and personal, Jeff’s insights are informed by his experiences as a black man and a conservative.

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