On Friday, Oct. 2, President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Over the past 48 hours, his condition became precarious, leaving many worried and questioning if the 25th Amendment will be invoked.
Amendment 25 contains four sections, each establishing a basic procedure for how to fill a vacancy in the office. The first section includes the steps to take in the case of presidential removal from office. Section two explains the process of nominating a new Vice President in the case of a vacancy. Section three institutes the process for a temporary leave of power declared by the president. Finally, the fourth section allows other executive officials to proclaim the President unfit to do the job. In this case, sections three and four pertain most relevantly to the current situation.
“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,” said section three of the 25th amendment.
When a president is unable to perform the duties of their office they must temporarily withdraw from power and allow the vice president to step in. Whether the empty presidential spot is caused by sickness, resignation or death, the vice president is sentenced to step up and fulfill that job. The 25th Amendment allows for temporary and permanent removal if needed. In the event that a president is severely incapable of performing their responsibilities, executive officials have the ability to remove them and declare them unfit.
In the case that Trump or an executive official invokes Amendment 25, Vice President Mike Pence would step up and fill the spot for the time being.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 led to the original need for this amendment. The chaos caused by Kennedy’s death and the disordered transition of power initiated congress to officially pass the law on Jul. 6, 1965, and ratified it on Feb. 10, 1967.
The latest use of the 25th Amendment was on Jun. 29, 2002, when President George W. Bush underwent a medical procedure. He wrote a letter addressed to the President Protempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives declaring his presidential power to be temporarily issued to Vice President Dick Cheney, while Bush could not lead himself.
Since Trump’s inceptive diagnosis with COVID-19, his condition has worsened. On Friday, Trump checked into Walter Reed hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. His current state remains unclear. The New York Times reports that his vitals in the past 48 hours seem very concerning. While the country wishes him a speedy recovery, many remain concerned that his condition could potentially impair his abilities as president.