How Does the 25th Amendment Work? Pelosi Announces Bill Amid Speculation Around Trump's State of Mind

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announces bill to introduce legislation related to the 25th Amendment. What exactly does the amendment say?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland introduced legislation Friday morning that will help clarify what the transfer of presidential power would look like and who would decide that in the case of the president's medical incapacity. There has been widespread public speculation over President Donald Trump's state of mind ever since he was administered experimental medications and infusions after his three-night stay at the Walter Reed Hospital on Monday.

"This is not about the election at all. We could have done it a while back, but the timing is now because people want to know," Pelosi said at a press conference Friday morning. "We have to give some comfort to people that there is a way to do this."

The 25th amendment states that, in the case of the removal of the president, whether it be by resignation, death, or removal, the vice president will take their place. This amendment outlines procedures for the transfer of power from the president to the vice president, but in its fourth section, it lacks specificity regarding what would happen in the event that a standing president falls ill due to a "temporary disability". 

Section four directly deals with a problem when a president is "incapacitated but has made no provision to temporarily transfer powers". In other words, the president would be "unable to make or communicate decisions as to his own competency to the powers and duties of his office," Raskin explained.

In which case, the vice president and majority cabinet would decide –– or, "such other body that may be established by Congress" may determine there is incapacity and notify the president and speaker of the house of that inability to conduct his powers.

The powers would be then transferred to the vice president.

Pelosi and Raskin, who is a constitutional law expert, are putting forth legislation that would provide top former executive officials and medical experts, in a bipartisan way, the authority to vote on whether, in the event of a medical emergency, the president is unfit to work. The commission would consist of 16 members appointed by both Republicans and Democrats –– eight would be medical professionals and the other eight would be former members of high-ranking branches including presidents, vice presidents and attorneys general, Raskin said.

The decision would be "entirely bipartisan" and can only act in concert with the vice president, who would be the key actor, Raskin said.

"Again, this isn't about the judgment of someone's behavior," Pelosi said. "This is about a medical diagnosis."

Raskin cited the events that unfolded in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy when the 25th amendment was ratified and later approved in 1967 by congress.

"The 25th amendment is designed to guarantee the continuing of peaceful transfer of power in our country," Raskin said. In this bill, the president would still have the opportunity to object and can conduct his powers despite what the vice president and other executive bodies are saying –– which would lead to a two-thirds majority vote in the House, Raskin clarified.

"In the age of COVID-19, which has killed more than 210,000 and ravaged the White House staff, the wisdom of 25th is clear," Raskin said.

In an interview on Bloomberg TV, Pelosi said, “The president is, shall we say, in an altered state right now. I don’t know how to answer for that behavior," NBC reported.

Asked on Friday if she thought Trump's mental state was altered, Pelosi responded, "There are those medical professionals who believe taking certain medications can affect your judgment. I don't know. I don't know, is what I said."

The president responded on Twitter to the comments made by the speaker, calling her "crazy Nancy" and claiming that she "is the one who should be under observation."

"He is clearly under medication. Any of us under medication of that seriousness is in an altered state," Pelosi said. "Should any of you suffer a stroke and are not able to make a decision for your family would you have any advance to have had a plan for your family? Even if it's temporary. God willing."

"We are in the middle of a momentous election and the people will decide that," Raskin said. "But the problem is something serious that we have to face."