Yahoo News explains: Removing a president under the 25th Amendment

Kate Murphy

This week a bombshell anonymous New York Times op-ed written by a “senior official in the Trump administration” claimed to be part of the “resistance” working within the Trump White House. One excerpt: “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D-Mass.) told CNN on Thursday, “If senior administration officials think the president of the United States is not able to do his job, then they should invoke the 25th Amendment.”

How did the 25th Amendment come about?

It dates to 1963, when Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson became president after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. There was no plan in place to choose Johnson’s replacement, and there was concern about the procedure were he to become ill or incapacitated before a new vice president could be named. In 1965, Congress formally proposed the 25th Amendment, and it became part of the Constitution in February 1967.

The 25th Amendment has four sections. The first three clarify the presidential order of succession and who can temporarily assume the president’s duties. Section 4 gets the most attention: It’s a multi-step process for the vice president and the Cabinet to declare that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Has the 25th Amendment been used before?

The first section was invoked when Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974 and was replaced by his vice president, Gerald Ford. Section 2 was used when Gerald Ford, as president, nominated Nelson Rockefeller for vice president, and he was confirmed in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Section 3 was used in 1985 when Ronald Reagan underwent brief cancer surgery and Vice President George H.W. Bush assumed his responsibilities. In 2002 and 2007, George W. Bush invoked Section 3 when he underwent medical procedures, and then-Vice President Dick Cheney became acting president.

Section 4 — which the author of the Times op-ed refers to — has never been used because it is a challenging process. It’s more difficult to remove a president under the 25th Amendment using Section 4 than under the impeachment process:

  • Impeachment: Requires a simple majority in the House and two-thirds vote in the Senate.

  • 25th Amendment: Requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate.