House Democrat introduces bill to amend presidential removal procedures

House Democrat introduces bill to amend presidential removal procedures
© Greg Nash

A House Democrat has introduced legislation to enhance the Constitution’s presidential removal procedures in response to concerns about President Trump’s behavior.

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerDemocrat: Pelosi ‘ceded the moral high ground’ on sexual harassment Clyburn on disparity in responses to sexual allegations: ‘Who elected them?’ Third House Dem calls for Conyers to resign MORE (D-Ore.) filed the bill during the House's two-week April recess to empower former presidents and vice presidents of both parties, in coordination with the sitting vice president, to determine if a president is fit for office.

“It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country’s best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

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Blumenauer’s proposal stems from concern that the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which was adopted five decades ago, would fall short in cases of emotional or mental incapacity.

The amendment states that the vice president assumes the Oval Office in the event that a president is removed from office, dies or resigns.

Alternatively, the vice president and a majority of Cabinet officers can also jointly declare that a president is unfit to serve. The vice president would then take over as president in such a case.

In the event that a president refused to step down, two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to vote to force the resignation. 

But Blumenauer posited that the mechanism wouldn’t be effective if a mentally unstable president simply fired all the Cabinet members. He argued it’s also possible that Cabinet members might feel pressured to stand by the president in the polarized political environment despite their own personal misgivings. 

“Because the cabinet can be fired by the president, there is a natural bias that would make them reluctant to acknowledge the president’s inability to serve. It’s time to revisit and strengthen the Amendment and make sure there is a reliable mechanism in place if the president becomes unable to discharge the powers and duties of office,” Blumenauer said.

Blumenauer first raised concerns about the 25th Amendment in a House floor speech in February during which he expressed worry about what he viewed as “erratic” behavior from Trump. At the time, he pointed to Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud in the election and stating that it was sunny during his inaugural address when it was, in fact, raining.

A handful of Democratic lawmakers have openly raised questions about Trump's psychological state since he took office in January, including Blumenauer, Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenDemocrats turn on Al Franken Schumer called, met with Franken and told him to resign Overnight Finance: Trump says shutdown 'could happen' | Ryan, conservatives inch closer to spending deal | Senate approves motion to go to tax conference | Ryan promises 'entitlement reform' in 2018 MORE (Minn.) and Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthThe nearly 60 Dems who voted for impeachment House rejects Democrat's resolution to impeach Trump Dem plans to force House floor vote on impeaching Trump MORE (Ky.).