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GOP lawmaker considers requiring presidential candidates to undergo medical exam

GOP lawmaker considers requiring presidential candidates to undergo medical exam
© Greg Nash

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) is working on legislation to require future presidential candidates to release the results of an independent physical exam.

The measure, which isn’t finalized, would mandate the major-party presidential candidates to undergo a physical exam by a Navy doctor and release the results to the public.

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Recent remarks from Chaffetz before The Washington Post editorial board left fellow lawmakers with the impression that the legislation would specifically include a requirement that presidential candidates undergo a mental health exam.

“If you’re going to have your hands on the nuclear codes, you should probably know what kind of mental state you’re in,” Chaffetz said.

That led House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to announce, unprompted, at a Capitol news conference that she’d eagerly sign onto Chaffetz’s bill once it’s introduced.

“I can’t wait until he introduces that legislation, to be able to join him as co-sponsor of that,” Pelosi said this month. “I think it’s a very good idea.”

In 2016, both Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFor Joe Biden, an experienced foreign policy team Millennials and the great reckoning on race Biden chooses Amanda Gorman as youngest known inaugural poet MORE and Republican Donald Trump faced questions about their health.

Democrats more recently have taken to raising questions about Trump's mental health.

Chaffetz’s office clarified this week that any insight into the candidates’ mental health would only come from the general physical examination. The results could reveal a physical condition that might affect the candidate’s mood at times, for example.

Presidential candidates are not legally required to release their medical results to the public. Candidates have released the results out of tradition and to assure voters of their good health.

President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE, 70, released a letter from his personal doctor, a gastroenterologist, that said he “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” and offered other superlative descriptions about his health.

Trump also appeared on the “Dr. Oz Show” to offer results from a physical examination, which revealed he is overweight.

Clinton, 69, faced a media firestorm after video showed her stumbling while leaving a Sept. 11 remembrance event, causing her campaign to disclose that she had pneumonia. 

Recent presidents have also released regular updates about their health, even though there isn't a law specifically requiring it.

But a number of presidents in American history have tried to hide their health problems from the public.

President Franklin Roosevelt hid his polio condition from the public.

Grover Cleveland underwent secret surgery for oral cancer during his second term, which wasn't known publicly until nearly a quarter-century later. And Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919 that resulted in first lady Edith Wilson assuming many presidential functions in his place.

Decades later, John F. Kennedy's campaign in 1960 hid his diagnosis of Addison's disease.