How the 25th Amendment works

Politicians, political pundits, and the press have been discussing it on a non-stop basis, since the attack on the U.S. Capitol building, January 6, 2021. So what exactly is the 25th Amendment?

The 25th Amendment was adopted as a result of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. The amendment, which is parsed into four sections, specifies the procedures for replacing the President or Vice-President in the event of death, resignation, removal, or incapacitation. It was passed by Congress on July 6, 1965, and ratified  February 10, 1967. 

The 25th Amendment was first invoked when Republican House Leader Gerald Ford replaced Spiro Agnew who resigned as vice president. It was later applied in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal when President Richard Nixon was forced to resign as president, and Vice-President Gerald Ford replaced him. Subsequently, Ford nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to fill the void.

The Amendment was invoked for brief periods of time when Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush underwent surgical procedures President Reagan and President Bush conveyed letters of incapacitation to Congress that temporarily conferred power to their vice presidents. The “transfer of power” authorization only lasted a few hours until the presidents claimed it back.

Section 1 declares that if a president dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the vice president shall become president.

Section 2 prescribes the procedure to fill a vice-presidential vacancy. It states that the president should nominate a vice-president, who must be confirmed by Congress.

Section 3 gives the president the authority to temporarily transfer power to the vice president.

Section 4 spells out the authority granted Cabinet members and the vice president, or another body that Congress may designate, to invoke the amendment to remove a president who is unable to fulfill his or her duties as President. This section addresses the scenario of a President who is unable to fulfill his constitutional role but who will not step aside.

The following is the full text of the amendment.

Section 1

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2

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.

Section 3

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4

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.     

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. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

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Charles Betzler

Charles Betzler

Long-time Sapulpa resident, Charles Betzler, followed his father, Charlie, into the radio and TV repair business. At age 9, he fixed his first broken radio and his first love is vintage audio equipment. In his 50 + years of technical work, graduation from OSUIT, and years of Continuing Education, Charles, in his capacity as Emergency Management Director of nearby city, designed the Emergency Operations Center, and the radio-activation system for the sirens. In his long career, he has repaired every type of consumer electronics from black-and-white TVs to the latest lap-top.