The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “… 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….” (Emphasis added.) This provision includes instructions as to what should be done if the President and Vice President disagree about the ability of the President to resume the duties of Chief Executive of the nation. It states that the Vice President will lead the nation if there is disagreement.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “This provision gives the President the RIGHT to advise the officials of Congress that he believes himself capable of resuming his duties, but it gives the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet the RIGHT to prevent the President from assuming his duties if they advise the congressional officials that this is their opinion.
“Notice that the Vice President is acting as President at the time the President tells the congressional leaders he is ready to again take over his office. Notice also that the Vice President continues to occupy the President’s desk simply by advising the congressional leaders that he and the majority of the Cabinet do not believe the President is yet capable of performing his duties. Once again the power to make the immediate decision lies in the hands of the one who has the most to gain politically by preventing the President from returning to his official duties.”
(See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 760.)
I sort of gulped when I read this Section of the Twenty-fifth Amendment and agreed with Mr. Skousen that the situation does not look good. I suppose the framers of this Amendment showed faith in the person holding the office of Vice President, but I can see a big problem if the Vice President is not worthy of that trust. The whole thing sounds a lot like setting the stage for a hostile takeover of the office of President.
John Feerick of The Heritage Foundation further explained, “… For situations where the President is unable to declare his own inability, the amendment authorizes the Vice President, acting with a majority of the Cabinet, to do so and then act as President. If the President disagrees, Congress resolves the issue….” (The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 431.)