Many Americans have questioned Donald Trump’s fitness to serve as President of the United States since before he took office, but even with that aside, his recent hospitalization for COVID-19 (and his subsequent antics) have prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) to draft legislation under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, establishing a commission that would allow Congress to intervene to relieve an unfit president of his or her duties.
Last week, President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19, briefly hospitalized, and given a series of experimental treatments that are understood to be reserved for seriously ill patients. While he was in the hospital, he remained on the job with no provision for Vice President Pence to assume even temporary executive duty. The 25th Amendment lays out the process for a president to voluntarily transfer executive authority to the vice president during times when the president is unable to carry out his or her duties, including during a medical event or procedure.
The aim of the 25th Amendment is to ensure continuity of power, should a president die, become unable to perform his or her duties, or resign. In addition to a president’s voluntary transfer of authority, the 25th Amendment provides that, by joint agreement between the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet, “or of such other body as Congress,” a sitting president could be declared “disabled,” and removed from office involuntarily.
The 25th Amendment limits the power of Congress in such situations, and the legislation put forth by Pelosi and Raskin would create a commission to determine whether Donald Trump is fit to carry out his duties as president, or should be removed from office.
Though they may be difficult to distinguish from Trump’s usual behavior and lack of impulse control, Trump’s recent barrage of angry and unstable-sounding tweets, self-aggrandizing and confusing video messages, and reckless behavior during his illness while still contagious, have concerned even many of his staff members.
Among Trump’s recent erratic video messages was one resembling an infomercial, touting the antibody treatment Regeneron. “We have hundreds of thousands of doses, and they’re just about ready,” Trump said, promising that the treatment would be free to all who need it.
Trump tweeted an abrupt halt to talks underway between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about a coronavirus relief package, then partially reversed the halt. He also announced that he would not be participating in the upcoming debate with Joe Biden after learning that the debate would be held virtually.
The president, scoffing at public health guidelines from his own administration, has returned to the Oval Office, placing the entire White House staff in danger of contracting the potentially deadly virus from their boss. As of Friday morning, at least “34 White House staffers and other contacts” have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a memo from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Yet Trump refuses to wear a mask, and says he plans to return to the campaign trail as early as this weekend.
Nancy Pelosi has expressed concern that Trump is experiencing a “disassociation from reality.” Others have questioned whether Trump is suffering “roid rage” as a result of his COVID-19 treatments, which includes Dexamethasone, a steroid.
“Trump is, shall we say, in an altered state right now,” said Pelosi. “The disassociation from reality would be funny if it weren’t so deadly.”
The legislation that Pelosi and Raskin are introducing, the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office Act, would “enable Congress to help ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership in the highest office in the Executive Branch of government,” according to the office of Pelosi.
The reality, however, is that, though Pelosi and Raskin could create a commission to examine the health of the president, and his fitness for office, the House of Representatives would need the agreement of not only the vice president, but also members of the cabinet. Pelosi knows that this is not likely, at least not before the election.
“I don’t think it would work for this president — this presidency,” said Pelosi.
Still, passage of the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office Act, even if only by the House of Representatives, would be a first step that needs to be taken at this time to protect the office of the presidency. Amid a sea of complicit and enabling GOP lawmakers who will likely continue to disregard the 25th Amendment, even as the president’s instability glares at them, this legislation is a statement that Donald Trump’s actions are placing the U.S. in jeopardy, and we need a plan.
Nancy Pelosi suggests future 25th Amendment discussion on Donald Trump’s fitness for office | Guardian News [2020-10-08]
What The 25th Amendment Says If The President Cannot Serve | NBC News NOW | [2020-10-02]