The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Sections 1 and 2 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President…. 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.” This provision insures that there will always be a President and Vice President; it gives the President the authority to appoint a new Vice President and gives the Vice President the authority to ascend to the office of President.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “Until this amendment was adopted, a vacancy in the office of Vice President could not be filled until the next presidential election. The new procedure has been followed twice since its ratification in 1967. The first time was when Spiro t. Agnew resigned his office as Vice President in 1973 and President Richard M. Nixon appointed Congressman Gerald R. Ford of Michigan to serve in his place – following the approval of a majority of the House and the Senate. The second incident occurred when President Nixon resigned and Vice President Ford became President. Ford then appointed Nelson A. Rockefeller to be the new Vice President, and Rockefeller was confirmed by a majority of the House and the Senate. Ford and Rockefeller thus became the first nonelected President and Vice President serving together in the history of the United States.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 758-759.)
John Feerick of The Heritage Foundation explained the need for this amendment: “The original Presidential Succession Clause of the Constitution (see Article II, Section 1, Clause 6) appeared to be relatively simple in providing for succession to the presidency. There were, however, troubling ambiguities. What was the meaning of `inability’ of a President `to discharge the Powers and Duties of said office’? Who determined the existence of an `inability’? Did a Vice President become President for the rest of the presidential term in the case of an inability or in the event of death, resignation, or removal; or was he merely `acting as President’? It was clear that there was no procedure for filling a vacancy in the office of Vice President, although it authorized Congress to legislate a line of succession to cover situations involving the death, resignation, removal, or inability of both the President and Vice President.
“Until the Twenty-fifth Amendment was adopted, the nation confronted a number of deaths in office of Presidents and Vice Presidents as well as periods when Presidents have been disabled….” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 430.)