/25th Amendment: Democrats pitch bill on presidential succession commission, citing Trumps COVID diagnosis

25th Amendment: Democrats pitch bill on presidential succession commission, citing Trumps COVID diagnosis

WASHINGTON – House Democrats unveiled legislation Friday to establish rules for presidential succession, citing President Donald Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis and the outbreak among top administration officials. 

The legislation would set up a 16-member bipartisan commission comprised of doctors and former administration officials to conduct a medical exam of the president and evaluate the fitness of the president for office. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the process was not directed at Trump and was intended to clarify the procedure for future presidents. 

“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgment of the voters, but he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents,” she said.

The Democrats’ legislation would address a provision of the 25th Amendment that allows for the vice president and a majority of “such other body as Congress may by law provide” to determine that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Congress has never acted on the provision.  

The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, lays out a legal mechanism for designating a head of state if the president is disabled or dead and also formalized the line of succession for the vice president to take over if the president dies or resigns. 

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a former constitutional law professor who had introduced similar legislation in 2017, said Trump’s case and the possibility of the president going into a coma or on a ventilator had “focused everybody’s mind on the need for following through on this suggestion in the 25th Amendment that Congress set up its own body. And I think again in the age of COVID-19, where a lot of government actors who have been afflicted by it, we need to act.” 

Asked if Trump had met the threshold for passing power to the vice president under the 25th Amendment, Pelosi said, “That’s not for us to decide.”

More:‘Altered state’: Pelosi says 25th Amendment, outlining presidential line of succession will be discussed

The legislation is unlikely to see the light of day. The House is out of session until after Election Day, and the Republican-controlled Senate is likely to oppose any action on the bill. 

Asked at an event in Kentucky about Pelosi’s comments Thursday about the 25th Amendment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Pelosi’s remarks were “absurd” and should be “discounted” in the last few weeks before the election. 

The speaker has sharpened her verbal attacks on Trump in the past week since his positive COVID-19 test, arguing the president was in an “altered state” and may have impaired judgment because of his COVID-19 diagnosis or his medical treatment. 

Trump was given the steroid dexamethasone over the weekend following a previously undisclosed drop in oxygen level. 

“Clearly (Trump) is under medication, any of us who is under medication of that seriousness is in an altered state. He has bragged about the medication that he has taken,” Pelosi said Friday, citing “articles by medical professionals” saying there could be “an impact on judgment.”

Asked if the unveiling of the legislation was linked to her comments about the president’s mental state or his prior impeachment, Pelosi said the bill was “not about any of us making a judgement about the president’s well-being” and was about the future transfer of power. 

Contributing: Maureen Groppe, Savannah Behrmann