Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) filed the bill during the House’s two-week April recess to empower former presidents and vice presidents of both parties, in coordination with the sitting vice president, to determine if a president is fit for office.
“It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country’s best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively,” Blumenauer said in a statement.
Blumenauer’s proposal stems from concern that the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which was adopted five decades ago, would fall short in cases of emotional or mental incapacity.
The amendment states that the vice president assumes the Oval Office in the event a president is removed from office, dies or resigns.
Alternatively, the vice president and a majority of Cabinet officers can also jointly declare that a president is unfit to serve. The vice president would then take over as president in such a case.
In the event a president refused to step down, two-thirds of both the House and Senate would have to vote to force the resignation.
But Blumenauer posited that the mechanism wouldn’t be effective if a mentally unstable president simply fired all the Cabinet members. He argued it’s also possible that Cabinet members might feel pressured to stand by the president in the polarized political environment despite their own personal misgivings.
“Because the cabinet can be fired by the president, there is a natural bias that would make them reluctant to acknowledge the president’s inability to serve. It’s time to revisit and strengthen the Amendment and make sure there is a reliable mechanism in place if the president becomes unable to discharge the powers and duties of office,” Blumenauer said.
First, this is a horrible bill on the face of it. Yes, I want to see Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle make decisions on who is fit for the Oval Office! What could go wrong? Because this committee would just reflect partisan politics, it would be completely ineffective against someone like Trump. Moreover, the only way it could be effective is if one party had dominated politics for enough time to control the committee and thus serve as a veto to get rid of a president from an opposing party. The consequences of that would be one-party authoritarianism.
Second, this is indicative of a lot of reaction to Trump from Democrats since November 8. The amount of grasping at desperate straws has been disheartening. The idea that an electoral college revolt would reject Trump was the worst moment in this, but relying on the 25th Amendment is almost as bad. This kind of desperation shows how reluctant liberals are to deal with the real problem–the Republican Party. Donald Trump is nothing more than a slightly worse Republican than normal. That’s why the Republican base supports his agenda and why congressional Republicans are unwilling to buck him on most issues–except from the right! Getting rid of Trump solves nothing except some exceptional kleptocracy. But until I see Republicans outraged by Trump’s support of Erdogan, I’m not believing that they care one iota about emerging authoritarianism. It’s what they want if they can be the authorities.
Let’s get serious about fixing this nation and quit pretending like the problem is just in the Oval Office.