The Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:
|“|| Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the 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.
Section 4. Whenever 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, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
This Amendment, ratified in 1967, was adopted in response to President Eisenhower's heart attack and the assassination of President Kennedy. There were earlier concerns when President Wilson had a very disabling stroke but stayed in power because his wife and the White House concealled the illness, along with the sudden and unexpected death of President Roosevelt (Franklin) while on vacation. Given the pressure of the Cold War to have a President always available to provide leadership, even in the event of an illness, a clear procedure was needed to define who could make decisions as Commander-in-Chief. Some argue that the amendment could be misused to authorized the president to handpick his successor by (1) obtaining the resignation of the vice-president, (2) appointing a new vice-president, and then (3) resigning. Six years later, President Nixon handpicked the future President Ford in this manner, without Ford ever being elected president. (Of course, the new Vice President was confirmed by the United States Congress.)
Conservatives criticize this amendment by arguing that it was passed to allow unelectable, but powerful, politicians like Nelson Rockefeller to become president. Indeed, President Ford picked Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president, making Rockefeller next-in-line to become president. Prior to this amendment and for most of American history, a vacancy in the office of vice-president remained unfilled until the next presidential election. (During such vacancies, an official of the party opposing the President could take office if the President died or left office.)
Under Section 4, as enumerated in the United States Code, the Secretaries (including Acting Secretaries) of the following departments are the ones authorized to invoke (or attempt to invoke) the provision regarding Presidential disability: State, Treasury, Defense. Justice (the Attorney General), Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. Thus, if a President did not agree on his own of a disability, then eight of the 15 Secretaries, plus the Vice President, would have to agree that a sitting President is disabled, in order to invoke the provision (and would also have to agree that the disability has been removed).
Since its adoption, many fictional works have illustrated its function and short comings. Most notably, The West Wing had the President step aside when his daughter Zoe was kidnapped transferring power to the Speaker of the House who was of the opposite party. The President then resumed serving in the office when his daughter is recovered.
In the television series Scandal, the Vice President takes over following an unsuccessful assassination attempt. The President struggles to portray himself as physically recovered in order to convince the Vice President and the cabinet not to take the issue to the Senate. The Vice President ends up agreeing to hand power back to him.
- Woodrow Wilson. Retrieved on January 11, 2015.
- The West Wing, Episode 4.23: Twenty Five. Original airdate: May 14, 2003.
- Scandal, Season 2, Episode 18. Original airdate: January 17, 2013,
Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America
Bill of Rights:
1 - Freedom of speech, press, religion, etc.
2 - Right to bear arms
3 - Quartering of soldiers
4 - Warrants
5 - Due process
6 - Right to a speedy trial
7 - Right by trial of a jury
8 - No cruel or unusual punishments
9 - Unenumerated rights
10 - Power to the people and states
11 - Immunity of states to foreign suits
12 - Revision of presidential election procedures
13 - Abolition of slavery
14 - Citizenship
15 - Racial suffrage
16 - Federal income tax
17 - Direct election of the United States Senate
18 - Prohibition of alcohol
19 - Women's suffrage
20 - Terms of the presidency
21 - Repeal of Eighteenth Amendment
22 - Limits the president to two terms
23 - District of Columbia Voting for President
24 - Prohibition of poll taxes
25 - Presidential disabilities
26 - Voting age lowered to 18
27 - Variance of congressional compensation