Things That Matter

What Is the 25th Amendment and What Does it Do?: A Primer

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So in case you missed it, some crazy stuff went down at the Capitol yesterday. A mob of far-right Trump supporters broke into the Capitol building in “protest” of Congress ratifying President Elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College votes.

The heinous episode shocked and rattled many Americans. After months of inflammatory rhetoric, President Trump effectively activated his base into violent and treasonous actions. And people are upset. 

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have since called for Trump’s resignation. But knowing President Trump, it isn’t likely that he’s going to do that.

Because of that, lawmakers have reportedly been having talks to discuss invoking the 25th Amendment.

The 25th Amendment has four sections that dictate what will happen in the event of an acting president being unable to carry out the duties of office. These events have usually amounted to…colonoscopies (no, really). But this time around, lawmakers are looking to the fourth section of the amendment to remove Trump from office. And this is where the wording gets super lawyer-y.

Section Four the 25th Amendment states:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

Translation: The Vice President, Trump’s cabinet, the Senate leader, and the Speaker of the House would all have to agree to ousting Trump.

It’s a little complicated, so let’s break it down. Vice President Pence and the majority (11 out of 23) of Trump’s cabinet would have to agree that he is unfit for office. Then, they must submit a written request to the “President pro Tempore” of the Senate (who is Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley) as well as the Speaker of the House (California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi).

But wait, that’s not all. As soon as this motion is enacted, President Trump would be able to contest that decision (which he most definitely would). In that case, VP Mike Pence, Senator Grassley, and Congresswoman Pelosi would have to re-draft another statement insisting that he is, indeed, unfit for office.

Then, two-thirds of both the Senate and the House of Representatives would have to agree with their decision.

Only then would Trump be permanently removed from the presidency.

So, yeah…a lot of steps. But there’s a good reason for that. If removing a president from office were easy, it would be done a lot more often and our democracy would be a lot shakier.

Remember relentlessly hearing about the “checks and balances” of our government in elementary school? This is what our teachers were talking about. A lot of different people in different parts of the government have to sign-off on hard decisions so we can all make sure every action is justified and reasonable.

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