WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced legislation Friday that would create a commission to allow Congress to intervene under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and remove the president from executive duties.
The announcement came after Pelosi said Thursday that Democrats would be discussing the 25th Amendment Friday amid President Trump's ongoing battle with COVID-19.
Just weeks before the Nov. 3 election, Pelosi said Trump needs to disclose more about his health after his COVID-19 diagnosis. She noted Trump’s “strange tweet” halting talks on a new coronavirus aid package – he subsequently tried to reverse course – and said Americans need to know when, exactly, he first contracted COVID as others in the White House became infected.
On Friday, she rolled out the legislation that would launch the commission for review.
Pelosi and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a former constitutional law professor, introduced legislation Friday to create the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office Act," which would, "create the Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office, the body and process called for in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to enable Congress to help ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership in the highest office in the Executive Branch of government."
"Common ground with the American people is the Constitution of the United States," Pelosi said. "The rules are what really do unify us. And this is a comfort to people, that it's not about who's in power ... it's about a process."
Raskin emphasized the importance of formalizing a bipartisan institution to help assess the president's fitness to serve the American people.
"We're living in an age of a lot of chaos, Raskin said. "We need to create some constitutional and institutional foundations for dealing with the chaos, and our forbearers who wrote the 25th Amendment gave us the tools we need to deal with these kinds of crisis."
Pelosi maintained this bill has nothing to do with the 2020 election. "It's not about the election at all," she said.
However, Pelosi did say that the medication Trump is taking related to his COVID-19 diagnosis could have an impact on his judgment.
"Clearly, he is under medication," she said. "Any of us who is under medication of that seriousness is in an altered state."
Regarding a new coronavirus stimulus package, Trump announced Republicans were walking away from the negotiating table before backtracking hours later by saying he supports standalone bills for small businesses, the airline industry and $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans.
“When we hear people saying, ‘I'm young and I'm a perfect specimen’ instead of addressing the fact that 50,000 people were reported infected yesterday, nearly a thousand people died, what are we talking about here?” Pelosi said Thursday.
Any effort to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump would face long odds, especially with Election Day less than a month away.
The amendment, ratified in 1967 following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, lays out the order of succession for the presidency, but it also explains how the president can be removed if he is deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
For that to happen, Vice President Mike Pence and the majority of Trump's Cabinet must agree that the president is unfit and then inform Pelosi and Chuck Grassley, the Senate’s president pro tempore, of their decision.
Trump would have four days to submit a letter to Congress objecting to the move. The Senate and the House would then have 21 days to vote on who the president should be, with two-thirds in each chamber needed to remove Trump.
The amendment also makes possible that a congressionally appointed body, instead of the Cabinet, could vote to remove the president, but that would first require Congress passing a law to establish a commission, which would need enough support to override a veto from the president.
Of course, if Trump were removed, Pence would assume the presidency. This provision of the 25th Amendment has never been used.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.