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The Twenty-fifth Amendment (Amendment XXV) to the United States Constitution deals with issues related to presidential succession and disability. It clarifies that the Vice President becomes President (as opposed to Acting President) if the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office; and establishes procedures for filling a vacancy in the office of the vice president and for responding to presidential disabilities.The Twenty-fifth Amendment was submitted to the states on July 6, 1965, by the 89th Congress and was adopted on February 10, 1967.
The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces.
The vice president of the United States is the second-highest officer in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, after the president of the United States, and ranks first in the presidential line of succession. The vice president is also an officer in the legislative branch, as President of the Senate. In this capacity, the vice president presides over Senate deliberations, but may not vote except to cast a tie-breaking vote. The vice president also presides over joint sessions of Congress.
In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution reads:
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President ...
This provision is ambiguous as to whether, in the enumerated circumstances, the vice president becomes the president, or merely assumes the "powers and duties" of the presidency. It also fails to define what constitutes inability, or how questions concerning inability are to be resolved.The Twenty-fifth Amendment addresses these deficiencies.
Section 1 clarifies that in the enumerated situations the vice president becomes president, instead of merely assuming the powers and duties of the presidency.
Section 2 addresses the Constitution's original failure to provide a mechanism for filling a vacancy in the office of vice president. The vice presidency had become vacant several times due to death, resignation, or succession to the presidency, and these vacancies had often lasted several years.
Section 3 allows the president to voluntarily transfer his authority to the vice president (for example, in anticipation of a medical procedure) by declaring in writing his inability to discharge his duties. The vice president then assumes the powers and duties of the presidency as acting president; the vice president does not become president and the president remains in office, although without authority. The president regains his powers and duties when he declares in writing that he is again ready to discharge them.
Section 4 addresses the case of an incapacitated president who is unable or unwilling to execute the voluntary declaration contemplated in Section 3; it is the amendment's only section that has never been invoked. It allows the vice president, together with a "majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide," to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" in a written declaration. The transfer of authority to the vice president is immediate, and (as with Section 3) the vice president becomes acting president –not president –while the president remains in office, albeit divested of all authority.
The "principal officers of the executive departments" are the fifteen Cabinet members enumerated in the United States Code at 5 U.S.C 101:
The Cabinet of the United States is part of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States. The Cabinet's role, inferred from the language of the Opinion Clause of the Constitution, is to serve as an advisory body to the President of the United States. Additionally, the Twenty-fifth Amendment authorizes the Vice President, together with a majority of certain members of the Cabinet, to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office". Among the senior officers of the Cabinet are the Vice President and the Secretary of State and other heads of the federal executive departments, all of whom—if eligible—are in the line of succession. Members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President, who can dismiss them at will for no cause. All federal public officials, including Cabinet members, are also subject to impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial in the Senate for "treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors".
The Code of Laws of the United States of America is the official compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States. It contains 53 titles. The main edition is published every six years by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the House of Representatives, and cumulative supplements are published annually. The official version of those laws not codified in the United States Code can be found in United States Statutes at Large.
A president thus declared unable to serve may issue a declaration stating either that he has recovered from the inability or that he was never disabled. This marks the beginning of a four-day period during which the vice president remains acting president. 38n137 If by the end of this period the vice president and a majority of the "principal officers of the executive departments" have not issued a second declaration of the president's incapacity, then the president resumes his powers and duties.:
If a second declaration of incapacity is issued within the four-day period, then the vice president remains acting president while Congress considers the matter. If within 21 days the Senate and the House determine, each by a two-thirds vote, that the president is incapacitated, then the vice president continues as acting president; otherwise the president resumes his powers and duties.
Section 4's requirements for the vice president to remain acting president indefinitely –a declaration by the vice president together with a majority of the principal officers or other body, then (if the president makes a counter-declaration) a two-thirds vote of the House and a two-thirds vote of the Senate –contrasts with the Constitution's procedure for removal of the president from office for "high crimes and misdemeanors" – a majority of the House (Article I, Section 2, Clause 5) followed by two-thirds of the Senate (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6).
On October 12, 1973, following Vice President Spiro Agnew's resignation two days earlier, President Richard Nixon nominated Representative Gerald Ford of Michigan to succeed Agnew as vice president.
The Senate voted 92–3 to confirm Ford on November 27 and, on December 6, the House of Representatives did the same by a vote of 387–35. Ford was sworn in later that day before a joint session of the United States Congress.
When President Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford succeeded to the presidency.Ford is the only person ever to serve as both vice president and president without being elected to either office.
When Gerald Ford became President, the office of vice president became vacant. On August 20, 1974, after considering Melvin Laird and George H. W. Bush, Ford nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to be the new vice president.
On December 10, Rockefeller was confirmed 90–7 by the Senate. On December 19, he was confirmed 287–128 by the House and was sworn in to office later that day in the Senate chamber.
On July 12, 1985, President Ronald Reagan underwent a colonoscopy, during which a precancerous lesion was discovered. He elected to have it removed immediatelyand consulted with White House counsel Fred Fielding about whether to invoke Section 3, and in particular about whether doing so would set an undesirable precedent. Fielding and White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan recommended that Reagan transfer power, and two letters were drafted: one specifically invoking Section 3, the other mentioning only that Reagan was mindful of its provisions. On July 13, Reagan signed the second letter, and Vice President George H. W. Bush was Acting President from 11:28 a.m. until 7:22 p.m., when Reagan transmitted a followup letter declaring himself able to resume his duties.
On June 29, 2002, President George W. Bush explicitly invoked Section 3 in temporarily transferring his powers to Vice President Dick Cheney before undergoing a colonoscopy, which began at 7:09 a.m. Bush awoke about forty minutes later but did not resume his presidential powers until 9:24 a.m., to ensure any aftereffects had cleared.
On July 21, 2007, Bush again invoked Section 3 before another colonoscopy. Cheney was acting president from 7:16 a.m. to 9:21 a.m.
There have been instances when a presidential administration has prepared for the possible invocation of Section 3 or 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. None of these instances resulted in the Twenty-fifth Amendment's being invoked or otherwise having presidential authority transferred.
On December 22, 1978, President Jimmy Carter considered invoking Section 3 in advance of hemorrhoid surgery.Since then, Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama also considered invoking Section 3 at various times without doing so.
Following the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, Vice President George H. W. Bush did not assume the presidential powers and duties as Acting President. Reagan had been rushed into surgery with no opportunity to invoke Section 3; Bush did not invoke Section 4 because he was on a plane at the time of the shooting, and Reagan was out of surgery by the time Bush landed in Washington.In 1995, Birch Bayh, the primary sponsor of the amendment in the Senate, wrote that Section 4 should have been invoked.
Upon becoming the White House Chief of Staff in 1987, Howard Baker was advised by staff to prepare for a possible invocation of Section 4due to Reagan's perceived laziness and ineptitude. According to Reagan biographer Edmund Morris, Baker's staff intended to use their first meeting with Reagan to evaluate whether he was "losing his mental grip," but Reagan "came in stimulated by the press of all these new people and performed splendidly". Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994, five years after leaving office.
After President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe held high-level discussions within the Justice Department about approaching Vice President Michael Pence and the Cabinet about possibly invoking Section 4. It is unclear whether any Cabinet members were in fact approached.On March 15, 2019, Senator Lindsey Graham announced the Senate Judiciary Committee would investigate the discussions and seek related documents.
The ambiguities in Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution regarding death, removal, or disability of the president created difficulties several times:
In 1963, Senator Kenneth Keating of New York proposed a Constitutional amendment which would have enabled Congress to enact legislation providing for how to determine when a President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency, rather than, as the Twenty-fifth Amendment does, having the Constitution so provide. 345 This proposal was based upon a recommendation of the American Bar Association in 1960. :27:
The text of the proposal read: 350:
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the said office shall devolve on the Vice President. In case of the inability of the President to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the said powers and duties shall devolve on the Vice President, until the inability be removed. The Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then be President, or, in case of inability, act as President, and such officer shall be or act as President accordingly, until a President shall be elected or, in case of inability, until the inability shall be earlier removed. The commencement and termination of any inability shall be determined by such method as Congress shall by law provide.
Senators raised concerns that the Congress could either abuse such authority 30 or neglect to enact any such legislation after the adoption of this proposal. :34–35 Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, a long-time advocate for addressing the disability question, spearheaded the effort until he died in August 1963. :28 Senator Keating was defeated in the 1964 election, but Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska took up Keating's cause as a new member of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments.:
By the 1960s, medical advances had made increasingly plausible the scenario of an injured or ill president living a long time while incapacitated. The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 demonstrated to policymakers of the need for a clear procedure for determining presidential disability, especially in the context of the Cold War.The new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, had once suffered a heart attack and – with the office of vice president to remain vacant until the next term began on January 20, 1965 – the next two people in the line of succession were the 71-year-old Speaker of the House John McCormack and the 86-year-old Senate President pro tempore Carl Hayden. Senator Birch Bayh succeeded Kefauver as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments and set about advocating for a detailed amendment dealing with presidential disability.
On January 6, 1965, Senator Birch Bayh proposed S.J. Res. 1 in the Senate and Representative Emanuel Celler (Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee) proposed H.J. Res. 1 in the House of Representatives. Their proposal specified the process by which a President could be declared "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office", thereby making the vice president an Acting President, and how the President could regain the powers of his office. Also, their proposal provided a way to fill a vacancy in the office of vice president before the next presidential election. This was as opposed to the Keating–Kefauver proposal, which neither provided for filling a vacancy in the office of vice president prior to the next presidential election nor provided a process for determining presidential disability. In 1964, the American Bar Association endorsed the type of proposal which Bayh and Celler advocated. 348–350 On January 28, 1965, President Johnson endorsed S.J. Res. 1 in a statement to Congress. Their proposal received bipartisan support.:
On February 19, the Senate passed the amendment, but the House passed a different version of the amendment on April 13. On April 22, it was returned to the Senate with revisions.There were four areas of disagreement between the House and Senate versions:
On July 6, after a conference committee ironed out differences between the versions, 354–358the final version of the amendment was passed by both Houses of the Congress and presented to the states for ratification. :
Nebraska was the first state to ratify, on July 12, 1965, and ratification became complete when Nevada became the 38th state to ratify, on February 10, 1967.On February 23, 1967, at a White House ceremony certifying the ratification, President Johnson said:
It was 180 years ago, in the closing days of the Constitutional Convention, that the Founding Fathers debated the question of Presidential disability. John Dickinson of Delaware asked this question: "What is the extent of the term 'disability' and who is to be the judge of it?" No one replied.
It is hard to believe that until last week our Constitution provided no clear answer. Now, at last, the 25th amendment clarifies the crucial clause that provides for succession to the Presidency and for filling a Vice Presidential vacancy.
Article Two of the United States Constitution establishes the executive branch of the federal government, which carries out and enforces federal laws. Article Two vests the power of the executive branch in the office of the president of the United States, lays out the procedures for electing and removing the president, and establishes the president's powers and responsibilities.
The Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides the procedure for electing the President and Vice President. It replaced the procedure provided in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3, by which the Electoral College originally functioned. The amendment was proposed by the Congress on December 9, 1803, and was ratified by the requisite three-fourths of state legislatures on June 15, 1804. The new rules took effect for the 1804 presidential election and have governed all subsequent presidential elections.
The Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution moved the beginning and ending of the terms of the president and vice president from March 4 to January 20, and of members of Congress from March 4 to January 3. It also has provisions that determine what is to be done when there is no president-elect. The Twentieth Amendment was adopted on January 23, 1933.
The President pro tempore of the United States Senate is the second-highest-ranking official of the United States Senate. Article One, Section Three of the United States Constitution provides that the Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate, and mandates that the Senate must choose a President pro tempore to act in the Vice President's absence. Unlike the Vice President, the President pro tempore is an elected member of the Senate, able to speak or vote on any issue. Selected by the Senate at large, the President pro tempore has enjoyed many privileges and some limited powers. During the Vice President's absence, the President pro tempore is empowered to preside over Senate sessions. In practice, neither the Vice President nor the President pro tempore usually presides; instead, the duty of presiding officer is rotated among junior U.S. Senators of the majority party to give them experience in parliamentary procedure.
In the United States, a Presidential Succession Act is a federal statute establishing the presidential line of succession. Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution authorizes Congress to enact such a statute:
... Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution sets a limit on the number of times an individual is eligible for election to the office of President of the United States, and also sets additional eligibility conditions for presidents who succeed to the unexpired terms of their predecessors.
The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution extends the right to vote in presidential elections to citizens residing in the District of Columbia. The amendment grants the district electors in the Electoral College as though it were a state, though the district can never have more electors than the least-populous state. The Twenty-third amendment was proposed by the 86th Congress on June 16, 1960, and was ratified by the requisite number of states on March 29, 1961.
The United States presidential line of succession is the order in which officials of the United States federal government assume the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States if the incumbent president becomes incapacitated, dies, resigns, or is removed from office. Presidential succession is referred to multiple times in the U.S. Constitution – Article II, Section 1, Clause 6, as well as the 12th Amendment, 20th Amendment, and 25th Amendment. The Article II succession clause authorizes Congress to provide for a line of succession beyond the vice president, which it has done on three occasions. The current Presidential Succession Act was adopted in 1947, and last revised in 2006.
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the president, and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
A presidency is an administration or the executive, the collective administrative and governmental entity that exists around an office of president of a state or nation. Although often the executive branch of government, and often personified by a single elected person who holds the office of "president," in practice, the presidency includes a much larger collective of people, such as chiefs of staff, advisers and other bureaucrats. Although often led by a single person, presidencies can also be of a collective nature, such as the presidency of the European Union is held on a rotating basis by the various national governments of the member states. Alternatively, the term presidency can also be applied to the governing authority of some churches, and may even refer to the holder of a non-governmental office of president in a corporation, business, charity, university, etc. or the institutional arrangement around them. For example, "the presidency of the Red Cross refused to support his idea." Rules and support to discourage vicarious liability leading to unnecessary pressure and the early termination of term have not been clarified. These may not be as yet supported by state let initiatives. Contributory liability and fraud may be the two most common ways to become removed from term of office and/or to prevent re-election
An acting president of the United States is an individual who legitimately exercises the powers and duties of the office of president of the United States even though that person does not hold the office in their own right. There is an established order in which officials of the United States federal government may be called upon to take on presidential responsibilities if the incumbent president becomes incapacitated, dies, resigns, is removed from office during their four-year term of office; or if a president-elect has not been chosen before Inauguration Day or has failed to qualify by that date.
Nereu de Oliveira Ramos was a Brazilian political figure. He briefly served as 20th President of Brazil in the aftermath of the political crisis which culminated in the suicide of President Getúlio Vargas.
The United States presidential line of succession and the United States laws governing succession to the presidency have, on many occasions, been incorporated into the storyline by creators of fiction. Several novels, films, and television series have examined the presidential line of succession and speculated on how it might be implemented in unusual circumstances. The following are some examples of fictional portrayals of United States presidential succession:
The presidential line of succession defines who may become or act as President of the Federative Republic of Brazil upon the death, resignation, incapacity or removal from office of the elected President, and also when the President is out of the country or is suspended due to impeachment proceedings.
The acting President of the Republic of Poland is a temporary post provided for by the Polish Constitution.
The President-elect of the United States is the person who has won the quadrennial presidential election in the United States, but who has not yet been inaugurated as President of the United States. President-elect is also the honorific title accorded to this individual.
The Philippine presidential line of succession defines who becomes or acts as President of the Philippines upon the incapacity, death, resignation, or removal from office of a sitting president or a president-elect.
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