WASHINGTON (AP) — Perhaps in a bit of wishful thinking, a House Democrat says he plans to form a working group to “clarify and strengthen” the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which lays out presidential succession and the steps the executive branch can take to remove a president from office.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon says he’s initiating this effort in response to Republican Donald Trump’s presidency, even though there have been no signs of an effort to remove him.
“Like many people, I’ve noticed a renewed interest in the 25th Amendment as we’ve seen erratic behavior out of the White House,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “As I examined the amendment, it became clear that in the case of mental or emotional incapacity, there is a glaring flaw.”
The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 as a response to President John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963. It made clear that the vice president becomes president if a president is removed from office or dies or resigns, and that the new president nominates a new vice president.
It also allows members of the executive branch to essentially force Congress to vote on whether to remove the president from office. The amendment states that the vice president and “a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide” can begin the process of removal if they believe the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
The flaw, Blumenauer says, is that the Cabinet may be fired by the president, “undermining this ostensible check on an unstable president.” He notes that the “some other body” is undefined, and there is no guidance for how it should operate. Blumenauer says he believes that living former presidents and vice presidents could form that body.
It’s unclear if anyone else has signed on to Blumenauer’s effort. Republican Vice President Mike Pence is in line to succeed Trump.