The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “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.”
The provision in the Constitution gives authority to the Vice President to assume the duties of President if the majority of the Cabinets agree that the President is incapable of performing the duties of his office.
W. Cleon Skousen explained a major problem with this provision. “It is believed by some constitution authorities that this provision opens the door to serious abuse….
“This becomes more apparent after careful consideration of the rest of this amendment.
“At this point it is sufficient to simply point out that if a Vice President has ambitions to seize the Presidency, and can get a majority of the Cabinet to agree with him, he is given the power in this provision to summarily take over the duties of the President, with or without the consent of the President. The fact that the power to make the change is left in the hands of the individual who will benefit the most politically by initiating the change is, in and of itself, a dangerous procedure.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 760.)
John Feerick of The Heritage Foundation is a little bit more calm about this provision. “… The Twenty-fifth Amendment captures the history of succession in its provisions providing for the Vice President to become President in the event of the death, resignation, or removal of the President and to serve as Acting President for the during of any inability. It allows a President to declare his own inability and resume his powers and duties when it has ended. This provision has been used when Presidents underwent surgery – in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan and in 2002 by President George W. Bush. 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 amendment also gives Congress the power to replace the Cabinet and substitute another body to function with the Vice President. It was not an accident that the amendment did not define `inability.’ The term was left vague in order to provide maximum flexibility to the constitutional decision makers, at a time of crisis, to do what they thought was in the best interests of the country. It was intended to cover cases of both physical and mental inability, such as when a President undergoes surgery, is kidnapped, or becomes infirm.” (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 431.)
I thought for a second that this provision could save us from the current President’s destruction of our nation – but then we would have Joe Biden as the Acting President!