The Corner

Politics & Policy

Speaker Pelosi Revs Up, Yes, the 25th Amendment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.,) speaks during a news conference in Washington, D.C., September 18, 2020. (Al Drago/Reuters)

Does it get any stupider than this?

So, unless some reasonably sane person talks her out of it, Speaker Pelosi is planning to roll out her 25th Amendment plan tomorrow to remove President Trump from office. Less than four weeks from Election Day, when there is not an iota of indication that he is under any disability that would prevent him from discharging his duties. And with not even the remotest chance of meeting the constitutional requirements to invoke the amendment. Truly.

Pelosi thinks President Trump should tell the world when his last negative test was, prior to testing positive for the coronavirus, reportedly last Thursday night. For what it’s worth, I think he should, too. So, I imagine, do most of us. Claims continue to swirl that he attended gatherings while on notice that he might be sick and contagious. A number of administration staffers, as well as others who’ve been at the White House for events, have tested positive in recent days. It’s a totally fair question (just like whether Democrats are going to pack the Supreme Court!), and he ought to answer it without bobbing and weaving.

Furthermore, the speaker has taken her fair share of hits for parading around San Francisco’s Chinatown section in late February, unmasked, mixing with crowds, urging tourists to come, assuring everyone that fear of disease was “unwarranted in light of the precautions that are being taken here in the United States.” No one has hit “Crazy Nancy” harder than the president (surprise!), so she is taking no small amount of “what goes around, comes around” pleasure in his plight (while, of course, praying for his health). That’s the way this game is played, and she’s entitled.

But the 25th Amendment? Again? We covered this a couple of years ago.

The point of the amendment is not to substitute for impeachment or otherwise undo the result of an election over political disputes. It is to address the situation when a president is beset by a profound disability, such as a stroke, that renders him or her unable to perform the duties of the office.

As the president is an elected official, the choice to continue in office unless impeached and removed generally belongs to the president for as long as the president is capable of continuing. Thus, most of the 25th Amendment addresses situations in which the president either obviously cannot perform the duties of the office (death or impeachment and removal), or voluntarily steps aside, at least temporarily.

Section 4 of the amendment, however, contemplates the rare Woodrow Wilson situation, when it is apparent because of some severe disability that a president cannot function as president, but the president cannot or will not step aside. Section 4 does trot out the possibility that Congress could enact a law creating a committee of some kind that could pronounce a president unable to function — in lieu of having a majority of the heads of the executive departments make that determination. Nevertheless, whether we’re talking about a congressionally created body or the cabinet, Section 4 says they must have the support of the vice president in judging the president incapacitated.

President Trump does not have a disability. Vice President Pence would not even entertain a claim that the president is incapacitated, nor should he. Neither would a single member of the cabinet. And, in the unlikely event Pelosi could coerce a majority of the Democrat-controlled House to support such a cockamamie idea, the GOP-controlled Senate would not consider it, so there is not the slightest chance passing a bill creating a committee to assess the president’s condition — a bill that the president would never sign in any event.

Other than that, it’s a great idea. Especially if the speaker is trying to establish that she’s the one who has gone off the deep end.

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