In an attempt to remove Trump from office a new move is afoot to use the 25th Amendment as a sword against the sitting president – and it is being spearheaded by Congressional Democrats. No surprise there.
As you may recall, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) summited a bill back in April to “strengthen and clarify” the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) also has a bill before Congress that would establish a permanent body – a congressional oversight commission in this one – that could declare the president incapable of fulfilling his duties. While the two bills are very similar in purpose, they are drastically different in ways that make Mr. Raskin’s seem a far more reasonable bill – and perhaps even one with a chance at passing.
Lawmakers added the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution to smooth the transition of the Vice President into the presidency should the President be incapacitated for any reason. Section 4 includes a method for the Vice President and Cabinet – or another body as provided by Congress – to declare the President unfit for duty should the need arise. While Section 4 was only intended to be invoked if the President demonstrated mental or physical health issues that interfere with the fulfillment of the duties of the office, Resistance politicians have tried to use it to toss Trump out for political reasons since the election.
While Rep. Blumenauer’s bill currently has no cosponsors according to its Congress.gov entry, Mr. Raskin’s Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act boasts twenty-one Democrats as official cosponsors. While the differences in the bills themselves are valid reasons for the gap in support, we should note that Mr. Raskin did a better job of capitalizing on catastrophe than his colleague. Yahoo News reports:
At 12:56 p.m. Thursday, barely four hours after Trump tweeted attacks against MSNBC cable host Mika Brzezinski in crude, personal terms, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the chief sponsor of the bill, sent out an email to his colleagues, urging them to get behind the measure, writing it was of “enduring importance to the security of our nation.”
As previously mentioned, however, this bill would likely garner more support than Mr. Blumenauer’s because it seems to have a better shot at passing. While Earl Blumenauer’s Strengthening and Clarifying the 25th Amendment Act of 2017 seems like a sweet deal for Democrats, it is also near impossible to sell to Republicans. Mr. Blumenauer’s bill establishes a panel of former U.S. Presidents and Vice Presidents with the ability to eliminate each other by a simple majority vote. Since there are six living Democrats and only four living Republicans who currently qualify for membership, it is entirely conceivable that the group would very quickly consist of only the six Democrats.
Mr. Raskin’s bill establishes a body of both former executives and medical professionals – a body not beholden to any single party and whose members do not serve for life. The eleven-person group would serve four years and be renewed each election cycle. This body seemingly maintains a balance of loyalty between both major parties, though some of the medical appointees could theoretically have other – or even no – political affiliations.
Raskin’s group consists of two doctors each appointed by the Speaker of the House and House minority leader and both the majority and minority leaders of the Senate. Of the eight doctors on the panel, four must specialize in psychiatry. The group also includes two who have served as a former President, Vice President, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, or Surgeon General – one for each party. The ten-person group would then vote to appoint an eleventh to serve as chairperson who must either be a medical professional, a former executive of the nation, or both. None of the members may hold an elected office or be a member of the military or any other government employee at any level.
In addition to being a non-partisan group with a limited term of service, the group also couldn’t act independently of Congress. Congress would have to pass a concurrent resolution – requiring agreement by majorities in both houses – for the commission to examine the president both physically and mentally. The President can refuse to comply, but the committee must return a recommendation regardless, and they may consider such a refusal in the decision.
As with any other bill that doesn’t cut the Vice President’s power out of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the VP would essentially have the power of veto over any recommended removal. Additionally, if at any point during or after this process the President wants to return to work, denying the request requires a two-thirds majority of both the House and the Senate.
Democrats will likely support this bill because it might become the escape clause that rids them of a Trump presidency. If passed, this bill is less likely to remove President Trump than Blumenauer’s. However, the fact that it could draw some Republicans makes an alluring bonus.
Anti-Trump Republicans might like this bill for the same reason the Democrats almost certainly will – it grants them some hope of removing President Trump from office. Even some who support the President might consider this bill. Any non-partisan group that could declare a Republican incompetent now could declare a Democrat incompetent in the future. Congressional Republicans would have to weigh the likelihood that this commission could remove President Trump against its usefulness to them against future Democrat Presidents.
Despite the support it might garner amongst some Republicans, if the vote falls along party lines as it so often does, this bill will fail. Even if the bill does pass, the removal of President Trump doesn’t necessarily follow. Unlike Mr. Blumenauer’s panel of former politicians which could recommend Trump’s removal for political reasons, Mr. Raskin’s bill would require the majority of a team of medical professionals to agree that the president is medically incapable of fulfilling his duties.The intended purpose of the Twenty-fifth Amendment is to grant a way of dealing with a U.S. President who may be incapable of doing the job – not giving one political party the means to sabotage the regular operation of the government after losing an election.
But the Resistance is clearly not done doing their dirty work, so stay tuned.