The 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution Explained

25th Amendment

25th Amendment of the Constitution

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

United States Constitution

The United States Constitution is the oldest constitution in the world still in active use, written in 1787 and ratified in 1788. 

Widely considered one of the best constitutions ever written, the US Constitution is comprised of 7 different sections known as articles and contains 27 amendments

The 25th Amendment, ratified on February 10, 1967, contains four sections and details the process and order of presidential succession dealing with vacancies in the presidential and vice-presidential roles.

25th Amendment – Overview

The original United States Constitution was very ambiguous about what to do when a president or vice president is removed from office either temporarily or permanently.

The White House
The 25th Amendment was introduced to bring greater clarification to the presidential line of succession.

It was only specified that if the president was no longer able to perform their duties, the vice president would take over the president’s duties, and Congress could also remove both the president and vice president from office.

Congress could then appoint an officer to function as president until a new election period, or the president was able to resume their role.

Loopholes existed within the constitution’s wording, such as how to replace a vice president if the president was still in office or the process of assigning temporary authority to the vice president if the president became temporarily disabled.

A more specific process for presidential succession was needed to avoid chaos and confusion in case of future vacancies in these offices.

Section 1

Section 1 states that if the president is removed from office due to death or resignation, the vice president becomes president.

President John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy’s assassination sparked a debate that ultimately led to the 25th Amendment.

While the original wording of the United States Constitution does say that the vice president retains the role of president if the president is removed from office, the wording is a little unclear and ambiguous.

There was a further stipulation that Congress could remove the president and vice president from office and appoint another officer to function as president.

This seemed to grant Congress the power to prevent the vice president from taking over the president’s roles if the president was removed from office.

United States Constitution
The original wording of the Constitution was quite ambiguous with regard to the presidential line of succession.

Section 2

Section 2 states that if there is a vacancy in the role of vice president, the president will nominate another vice president that a majority vote must approve of both the House and the Senate.

Section 3

Section 3 details the process of a president voluntarily suspending their duties as president.

It states that the president must make a written declaration to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Once a president does this, the vice president takes on the role of acting president.

Ronald Reagan
President Ronald Reagan refused to sign the letters necessary to invoke the 25th Amendment after he was shot in 1981.

Section 4

Section 4 details the process of a president involuntarily having their duties suspended if they are unable to submit a written declaration.

In a situation such as this, the vice president and a majority of officials in the executive departments or another body specified by law if Congress so chooses must provide a written declaration to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives that the president is unable to perform their duties.

United States Congress
United States Congress.

Section 4 further stipulates that the president can resume their role as president by a written declaration to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives their ability to do so.

That is unless the vice president and a majority of executive officers or another body specified by law state within four days that the president cannot perform his duty.

In this case, Congress must convene within 48 hours to decide the issue if not in session and then decide the matter within 21 days.

President Donald J. Trump
The Democrats made unsuccessful calls for the 25th Amendment to be invoked to remove Donald Trump from office.

Should the House and Senate determine by at least a 2/3s vote that the president is unable to perform their duties, the vice president will continue as acting president and exercise presidential power.

If the House and Senate do not reach a 2/3 vote, the president will resume their duties.

The 25th Amendment in Use

The 25th Amendment was ratified in February of 1967. It was first used in 1973 following the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. 

President Richard Nixon nominated Congressman Gerald Ford of Michigan to fill the vacancy left by Agnew.

Gerald R. Ford
Gerald R. Ford replaced Spiro Agnew as Vice President in 1973.

It was used again less than a year later when Vice President Ford replaced President Nixon after his resignation following the Watergate scandal. Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller as his vice president. 

In more recent years, House Democrats called on Vice President Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment in a failed attempt to remove President Trump from office. Republicans have made similar calls against Joe Biden.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxxv

https://constitution.congress.gov/constitution/article-2/

4 Responses

  1. I see some Republicans are calling for the use of the 25th Amendment to remove Biden. They really need to brush up on the Constitution to see how that works

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