What is the 25th Amendment and how does it work?
The 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows for the transfer of power from the president to the vice president in extenuating circumstances, when the president is deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for President Trump to be removed by invoking the 25th Amendment, following a day of chaos in Washington, D.C., where pro-Trump rioters bypassed security barriers and stormed the nation’s Capitol building. Their goal was to interrupt an ongoing joint session of Congress to certify the results of the Nov. 3 presidential election.
The 25th Amendment was added to the Constitution following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Two years later, in his State of the Union address, President Lyndon B. Johnson made it part of his agenda to “propose laws to insure the necessary continuity of leadership should the President become disabled or die.”
The amendment was later ratified in 1967 as a contingency plan for unprecedented illness or other circumstances that would render the president unable to lead the country.
Section 3 of the 25th Amendment allows a President to voluntarily transfer power to the Vice President, for example, if he or she were to undergo surgery or a medical procedure. This happened in 1985 with President Ronald Reagan and in 2002 with President George W. Bush.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., floated invoking the amendment against Trump in October 2020, after the president was hospitalized for COVID-19, but the notion was dismissed.
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment calls for a President to be sidelined if he’s deemed unfit for office. Such a situation could stem from an unforeseen incident, such as an accident or a medical emergency. Administration officials decided against invoking the Constitutional power in March 1981, after the assassination attempt on President Reagan’s life and his subsequent surgery.
Section 4 also provides a mechanism for the President to be stripped of his powers involuntarily if “the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” which could encompass an array of scenarios.
In this case, the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet may vote to transfer power to the vice President if they judge the president to be incapacitated. Section 4 also includes a provision where “Congress may by law” insert itself into the process and have a say in the matter.
The amendment grants the president a four-day period to object to the motion, which would then send it over to Congress for a vote, an unprecedented move in our nation’s history.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.