House Dem seeks to create commission on 'presidential capacity'

House Dem seeks to create commission on 'presidential capacity'
© Greg Nash

A House Democrat is introducing legislation that would establish a commission to determine whether a president is unfit for office.

Rep. Jamie Raskin’s (D-Md.) bill seeks to create the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity to fill a role outlined by the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which sets up presidential removal procedures.

The 25th Amendment states that the vice president and a majority of either the president’s Cabinet “or of such other body as Congress may by law provide” can declare that they believe a president cannot fulfill his or her official duties. 

If a president refuses to step down, two-thirds of both the House and Senate could vote to force the ouster.

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"The 25th Amendment was adopted 50 years ago, but Congress has never set up the body it calls for to determine presidential fitness in the event of physical or psychological incapacity. Now is the time to do it," Raskin said in a statement Friday.

Raskin wants to provide a specific “body” comprised of 10 physicians, psychiatrists and retired former leaders — like presidents and vice presidents — chosen by House and Senate leaders of both parties. The commission’s chair would be chosen by the 10 appointed members.

If a situation warranted, Congress could pass a resolution directing the commission to conduct an examination of the president to determine whether they are incapacitated mentally or physically. Members of the commission would then report back to Congress on their findings.

“Any refusal by the President to undergo such examination shall be taken into consideration by the Commission in reaching a conclusion in the report,” the legislative text notes.

So far the bill has gained 20 co-sponsors, all Democrats, since Raskin first introduced it last month. 

But his statement Friday announcing the legislation comes amid Democrats expressing alarm over President Trump abruptly firing James Comey as FBI director this week amid the agency’s investigation of whether Trump associates colluded with the Russian government to influence the election.

The White House initially said Trump fired Comey following a recommendation from Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that criticized his handling of the investigation into Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Stephen Miller, helped edit Trump speech: report Bannon jokes Clinton got her ‘ass kicked’ in 2016 election MORE’s use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State. 

But Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview Thursday that he was planning to fire Comey “regardless of recommendation.”

“I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,” Trump said.

Raskin isn’t the only Democrat to offer legislation to enhance presidential removal procedures since Trump took office.

Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerLive coverage: Day two of the Ways and Means GOP tax bill markup GAO disputes that IRS had to award .25M contract to Equifax Congress should stand with the majority of Americans and support Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment MORE (D-Ore.) introduced a bill last month to give former presidents and vice presidents of both parties, in coordination with the sitting vice president, to authority to determine if a president is fit for office.

Blumenauer delivered a House floor speech in February to float the proposal and express concern that the 25th Amendment in its current form would fall short in cases of mental incapacity.

“For a mentally unstable, paranoid or delusional president, the 25th Amendment has no guarantee of its application. In fact, it’s likely that it would fail," Blumenauer said at the time.