PHOENIX - As the nation reels from the storming of the U.S. Capitol building during a riot that resulted in the death of a woman, some members of Congress are urging Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment of the United States Constitution to declare the President unable to discharge the powers of office.
Here's what you need to know about the constitutional amendment.
1. What is the 25th Amendment?
According to the National Archives, the 25th Amendment was ratified in February of 1967, and it details the succession of presidential power under a number of scenarios.
The first two sections of the amendment formally state that when the President is removed from office, dies or resigns, the Vice President will become the President, and when the Vice President's office is vacant, the President will nominate a Vice President, who will take office when both houses of Congress confirms the nominee in a majority vote.
The third section states that when a President notifies the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that he or she is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office, the Vice President will serve as Acting President until the President makes a notification otherwise.
The section of the amendment that applies to the current situation is Section 4, which states that when 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," notifies the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House in a written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of office, the Vice President will take over immediately as Acting President.
Under the amendment, the President can notify the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that no inability exist, and at that point, the President will be able to resume the powers and duties of office, unless 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," disagree.
In that event, such a disagreement must be raised within four days after the President says no inability exists. Should that happen, Congress will step in, and if two-thirds of Senators and Representatives agree that the President is unable to discharge the powers of office, the Vice President will continue on as Acting President.
2. Why was it passed?
The push for an amendment detailing presidential succession plans in the event of a president’s disability or death followed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
In his 1965 State of the Union speech, President Lyndon B. Johnson in his promised to "propose laws to insure the necessary continuity of leadership should the President become disabled or die."
Originally, the U.S. Constitution contained a rather vague reference to who will step in as President if a President is removed from office, resigns, dies or becomes unable to discharge the powers of office.
According to an explanation of the clause on the Legal Information Institute with the Cornell Law School, the original clause was unclear as to whether the Vice President will succeed the office of the presidency itself, or merely its powers and duties.
3. Has the 25th Amendment been used before?
Previous transfers of power have generally been brief and happened when the president was undergoing a medical procedure.
In 2002, President George W. Bush became the first to use the amendment’s Section 3 to temporarily transfer power to Vice President Dick Cheney while Bush was anesthetized for a colonoscopy. Bush temporarily transferred power in 2007 to undergo another colonoscopy.
However, while Presidents have temporarily relinquished power, not all involved the use of the 25th Amendment.
When President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981, the 25th Amendment was not invoked.
In 1985, when President Reagan underwent surgery to remove a polyp from his colon, he did temporarily transfer power to Vice President George H. W. Bush, but said at the time he wasn’t formally invoking the 25th Amendment.
While he said he was "mindful" of it, he didn’t believe "that the drafters of this Amendment intended its application to situations such as the instant one."
Even prior to
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report