What Is the 25th Amendment and Why Are Folks Calling for It to Be Invoked After the Capitol Chaos?

Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. The demonstration turned violent and deadly. (Getty Images Photo/ Spencer Platt)

By Elle Meyers

January 6, 2021

Typically, the 25th Amendment is considered for use when presidents become too sick or otherwise incapacitated to lead the country. However, it can also be implemented with an agreement among specific officials.

A growing number of lawmakers and others are calling for President Donald Trump to be removed from office via the 25th Amendment after thousands of his supporters stormed the US Capitol building on Wednesday. 

Both chambers of Congress had to quickly evacuate the building or shelter in place inside the Capitol after rioters breached the barriers outside and overpowered police.

The rioters descended on Washington, DC, from across the country as part of a so-called “Stop The Steal” protest, organized by Trump supporters who have bought into debunked conspiracy theories that the election was fraudulent. Trump was handily defeated by President-elect Joe Biden by 7 million votes and a 306-232 margin in the Electoral College. 

Trump had outright encouraged the demonstration, which led to one member of the mob being killed and multiple officers being injured.

RELATED: Domestic Terrorists Violently Storm Capitol Building in Attempted Coup Encouraged By Trump

On Wednesday afternoon, the president released a video addressing the domestic terrorists whom he had earlier encouraged to march to the Capitol (and, in fact, said he would join). “We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election and everyone knows it, especially the other side,” said Trump, lying. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order. We have to respect our great people in law and order. We don’t want anybody hurt … Go home. We love you and you’re very special.”

The violent uprising has led several members of Congress and many others to call for the president’s removal. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA), Charlie Crist (D-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) are just a few of the Democratic lawmakers who took to Twitter with that message. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) also announced she is drawing up new Articles of Impeachment to prevent Trump from remaining in office until his term ends on Jan. 20. 

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, who served in the Clinton administration, told CNBC that Trump’s Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment. “I don’t know where his Cabinet has been all this time, but it’s long overdue for the 25th Amendment because this man is no longer capable of serving the United States of America,” he said.

The head of the National Association of Manufacturers, a group representing 14,000 companies in the United States, echoed that sentiment in a statement: “This is not the vision of America that manufacturers believe in and work so hard to defend.” The author, Jay Timmons, was once executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

What is the 25th Amendment?

Typically, the 25th Amendment is considered for use when presidents become too sick or otherwise incapacitated to lead the country. However, it can also be implemented with an agreement among certain officials. The result is the vice president becoming acting president.

There are several different scenarios in which this can take place. If the president themselves determines they are unfit to lead temporarily but will later return to their duties in office, they can inform, in writing, the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore. While the president is away, the vice president steps in and serves as acting president. Then, when the president is ready to resume duty, they would send a similar message, again in writing, notifying the leaders. 

The last time the 25th Amendment was used was in 1985, when President Ronald Reagan underwent cancer surgery and put Vice President George H.W. Bush in charge temporarily.

Officials can also invoke the amendment against a president’s wishes if they feel he is unfit to lead—as many have called for on Wednesday. That would occur under Section 4 of the amendment—which has never been invoked.

In order to invoke the 25th Amendment, the vice president and a majority of Cabinet secretaries would need to inform the House Speaker and Senate president pro tempore in writing that they feel the sitting president is unfit. Then, Congress would need to convene within 48 hours, and has 21 days to rule on the issue. If the Congress reaches a two-thirds majority in both chambers, the vice president assumes the position of acting president. 

If any of those requirements are not met, however, the president remains in power.

Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

READ MORE: We Talked to an Expert on Violent Insurrections to Better Understand What the Hell Happened at the US Capitol


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