House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she and Democrats in the House of Representatives would begin discussing issues related to the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which pertains to how the president of the United States can be removed from power if the commander in chief is deemed unfit to serve.
Pelosi said the issue was being raised because of concerns among Democratic lawmakers that President Donald Trump may not be fit to discharge his duties in office due to the side effects of treatment for coronavirus.
“What I said about the President was that we don’t know if somebody who — I’ve not said this, I’ve quoted others to say there are those who say that when you’re on steroids and/or if you have COVID-19 or both that there may be some impairment of judgment, but again that’s for the doctors and the scientists to determine,” Pelosi said.
Trump responded to Pelosi in a tweet using disparaging words and ableist terminology.
“Crazy Nancy is the one who should be under observation. They don’t call her Crazy for nothing!” Trump wrote.
The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, provides the constitutional procedures for the placement of the president in case of “death or resignation,” or the inability of the head of state “to discharge the powers and duties of … [the] office.” In the case of the latter, the amendment requires the vice president and a majority of the president’s own cabinet to make that determination and to submit their conclusions to Congress. The president has the opportunity to object, after which Congress votes on the matter. Two-thirds of both legislative houses are required to override the president’s veto.
While the amendment in its current status states that the vice president and the cabinet play the main roles in deciding whether a sitting president is unfit to serve, the language within the amendment does provide a means for changing that process.
Specifically, the amendment includes a line that states, “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.” If Congress passes a law creating such a body, then either the cabinet or that body, along with the vice president, can make that determination going forward.
A proposal by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) is set to be introduced on Friday that would create a panel to determine whether the president is “mentally or physically unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office.” The resolution, which has Pelosi’s support, is similar to a measure first proposed by Raskin in 2017. It would set up an 11-member commission appointed by leaders from both parties in the House and Senate.
The proposal has almost no chance of being passed, as it would require Trump’s signature to become law or two-thirds of Congress to override a presidential veto.
Some have questioned whether the president’s erratic behavior in recent days is connected to his treatment for the coronavirus. The side effects for the steroid dexamethasone, which Trump is taking, include some mental side effects, including insomnia, mood swings and “frank psychotic manifestations,” according to the drug’s labeling.
Dexamethasone can also cause coronavirus to have feelings of euphoria, even if they’re not actually recovering from the disease. Some questioned whether this was the case after Trump tweeted that he felt better than he ever has in decades earlier this week.
Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, noted that the more severe side effects are probably not likely to occur after taking the drug for a short period of time. He did say, however, that someone who is just starting the medication is likely to become “very energetic.”
Whether conversations on the 25th Amendment move forward or not, polls show Americans overall do not trust Trump’s statements on his own health status. A recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll from earlier this month found that 52 percent of voters do not trust what Trump has to say about his recovery, while only 39 percent say they do trust him.