House Democrats are on a mission to educate the American people about a little-known power of the 25th Amendment — the ousting of the president.
Led by freshman Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, a group of growing Democratic co-signers has put forth a bill that could force President Donald Trump from office if he were found mentally or physically unfit.
Although it was introduced in April, the bill has gained steam in the past week as Trump’s tweet storms have grown in ferocity.
“Given Donald Trump’s continued erratic and baffling behavior, is it any wonder why we need to pursue this legislation?” asked Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida, a co-signer. “The mental and physical health of the leader of the United States and the free world is a matter of great public concern.”
If successful, the law would create an 11-member bipartisan commission known as the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity, which would medically examine the president and evaluate his mental and physical faculties.
Rankin hopes to take advantage of Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president to remove the president if he or she has the consent of the majority of the Cabinet or “such other body as Congress,” if they believe he cannot “discharge the powers and duties of the office.” If all goes according to plan, the bipartisan commission could provide that consent after a medical examination of the president.
The commission would evaluate whether Trump or the president at the time “is temporarily or permanently impaired by physical illness or disability, mental illness, mental deficiency, or alcohol or drug use to the extent that the person lacks sufficient understanding or capacity to execute the powers and duties of the office of President.”
Initially, 20 members of Congress signed onto the bill in April, but the number continues to grow, especially after Trump’s most recent tweets. His feud with the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a tweet that included a GIF of himself tackling and punching a figure with the CNN logo over its face have earned him harsh criticism from the media, as well as from members of Congress.
But the bill isn’t just about Trump, and it shouldn’t be voted on by party lines, said Raskin, a professor of constitutional law, who said the commission could be called for any president whenever there’s concern.
“We’ve got to make sure that we have a president who is able faithfully to discharge the duties of office,” Raskin said Friday on CNN’s “Outfront.” “This is not just for one president — it’s for all of the presidents. And I think we can come together in a bipartisan way.”
The White House didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment from NBC News.
The 25th Amendment has been invoked a few times in the past when presidents have had to be sedated for medical procedures.
In July 1985, for example, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was acting president for about eight hours when President Ronald Reagan underwent a procedure to have a precancerous lesion removed from his colon.
And Dick Cheney was twice acting president during the administration of President George W. Bush: first in June 2002, for about 2½ hours, when Bush underwent a colonoscopy, and again for about two hours in July 2007, when Bush had five non-cancerous colon polyps removed.