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Experts say "Invoking the 25th" a Difficult, Unlikely Process

Before the 25th Amendment, there was no clear procedure to follow should a U.S. president become unable to serve. (Joe Shoe/Flickr)
Before the 25th Amendment, there was no clear procedure to follow should a U.S. president become unable to serve. (Joe Shoe/Flickr)
February 20, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – While Presidents Day protest rallies Monday may focus on impeaching President Donald Trump, at least one political expert says it would be a long shot.

Some opponents of the president have suggested invoking the 25th Amendment, which outlines the procedures to be followed when a sitting president is no longer capable of performing the duties of the office.

Kelly Coyle, federal affairs project director for the online political encyclopedia Ballotpedia, explains why the use of Section 4 of the amendment is coming into question.

"Vice President Pence and a majority of President Trump's cabinet members would have to say this president is incapable of serving, or Vice President Pence and then this undefined 'body of Congress,' which is where the confusion is, they would have to say that Trump is not able to serve," she explains.

Coyle notes "invoking the 25th" is a long process, and extremely unlikely.

Last week, Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon called for a review of the 25th Amendment, and Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, said on Sunday that he's heard from Republican colleagues who are concerned about the president's mental health. Others cite ethics concerns.

The latest Gallup polling shows the president's approval rating is 40 percent overall, with 8 percent of Democrats and 87 percent of Republicans in favor of his performance.

The 25th Amendment was developed after John F. Kennedy's assassination. Coyle says there are a number of times in U.S. history when presidents have become incapacitated, and there was no clear guidance for what to do. Section 4 of the amendment has never been invoked, but other sections have.

"Section 1 and 2, that's been used three times, and that was all regarding Nixon administration scandals,” she points out. “And then Section 3, that was used three times for medical procedures. One was under Reagan and twice for George W. Bush."

Ohio was the 42nd state to ratify the 25th Amendment, which was adopted 50 years ago.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH