House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday announced legislation that would create an independent commission to help determine how and when to remove presidents from office “to ensure stability and continuity of government” in the event they are not fit to continue serving.
“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 at a press conference on Friday. “A president’s fitness must be determined by science and facts.”
Co-sponsored by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who introduced a previous version of the legislation in 2017, the bill would establish a bipartisan Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office that could weigh in in the event of a presidential crisis.
The 16-member group would consist of doctors and other medical experts, as well as former executive branch officials, such as former presidents, vice presidents and Cabinet members. Half of the members would be appointed by Republican leaders and half would be appointed by Democratic leaders, Raskin said Friday.
Under the 25th Amendment, which was ratified after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Congress has the power to set up an independent body that would help determine if and when the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” and thus the vice president must take over temporarily. It’s “a safety valve option,” Raskin said. The proposed commission would help lay out the details of that process and assess the president’s fitness, in consultation with the vice president and Congress.
“The Constitution is designed to give us the tools that we need to deal with the many crises of human affairs that can affect the continuity of democratic self-government,” Raskin said. “We are in the middle of a momentous election, and as the speaker said, the people will decide that. But when we get through this, the problem that we’re talking about today is something serious that we have to face.”
The bill is unlikely to advance before the election, but it should keep questions about Trump’s health and fitness for office in sharp focus.
It will also probably inflame Trump even more. After Pelosi teased the legislation during a press conference Thursday, the president retweeted posts criticizing the legislation, some of which included users suggesting Pelosi was trying to stage a “coup.” He also referred to the speaker as “Crazy Nancy” and suggested she “should be under observation.”
Trump, who is currently recovering from COVID-19, has faced multiple questions about his mental fitness for office given the drugs he’s taken to combat the coronavirus. Pelosi noted that on Friday: “Clearly, he is under medication. Any of us who is under medication of that seriousness is in an altered state.”
Trump’s doctors past and present have also provided conflicting information about his health, generating more questions than answers. Over the last week, they have refused to say when he last tested negative for the virus.
Dozens of other people in Trump’s orbit, from GOP lawmakers to officials and staff at the White House and on his reelection campaign, have also tested positive. Many top lawmakers are also in the age range where they are more likely to face serious complications if they are infected with the virus.
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