After confirming positive coronavirus tests results for him and his wife Melania, President Donald Trump could be set to become just the third president in US history to temporarily hand over power to his vice president.
If Trump needs to undergo a medical procedure because of the coronavirus or becomes too ill to be able to carry out his duties effectively, Vice President Mike Pence will be able to assume his roles until the president is fit enough again.
Trump announced on Friday that he had tested positive and that he was immediately entering quarantine to begin the recovery process. If he desired, under Section 3 of the US Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which was adopted in 1967 after the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963, Trump could declare in writing an inability to discharge his duties.
Vice President Mike Pence would consequently become acting president but Trump would remain in office. Trump could then regain his presidential powers as he desired by again submitting in writing that he is ready to discharge them.
An alternative method for Trump’s removal of power would be through Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. This would need to be invoked by Cabinet if they believed he had become incapacitated in his ability to properly carry out his duties, but this has never been done in US history.
Section 4 says that the vice president and majority of Cabinet officials or ‘such other body as Congress may by law provide’ can inform leaders of the two houses of Congress that the president is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’.
This would result in the vice president assuming power but in such a case President Trump could resume office by informing the congressional leaders that ‘no inability exists’, unless the Cabinet officials or alternative body declare otherwise. Congress would assemble within two days to make a decision on the issue.
A two-thirds vote is needed of the members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate to decide that the president is indeed unable to discharge office duties. This would result in the vice president remaining acting president until the next scheduled presidential election is completed to decide the next occupant of the White House.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan was due to have a precancerous lesion removed and signed a letter that allowed Vice President George HW Bush to assume the role of acting president for eight hours until Reagan once again signed a letter to resume his duties.
President George Bush first invoked Section 3 in 2002 to temporarily transfer powers to Vice President Dick Cheney just before undergoing a colonoscopy. Cheney assumed the role of acting president once again in 2007 when Bush underwent another colonoscopy.
“We’re going to keep on fighting for 33 days all the way to victory on November the third. As the president said, he held Joe Biden accountable for 47 years of failure. Shipping jobs and dreams abroad, and bowing to the violent mob. And I promise you, we’re going to keep taking that case every single day,” Vice President Mike Pence said during a speech in Carter Lake, Iowa.
“It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come and the story that we have to tell the people of Iowa.
I mean, four years ago, a movement was born. A movement of everyday Americans from every walk of life. Here in Iowa, you believe we could be strong again. You believe we could be prosperous again.
“You said yes to President Donald Trump in 2016, and I just know that Iowa’s going to say yes to four more years of President Donald Trump in 2020. And it’s because of what we’ve done. It’s because of what we’ve done under this president’s leadership,” Pence added.
“I mean, four years ago, we inherited a military that was hollowed out by years of devastating budget cuts, an economy that was struggling to break out of the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression. Terrorism was on the rise around the world, and we witnessed a steady assault on our most cherished values and liberties.
“But in three short years, with President Donald Trump in the White House with strong allies on Capitol Hill, this father of a United States Marine is proud to report to you we rebuilt our military. We restored the arsenal of democracy and we are finally giving our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, and Space Force the resources they need to defend this nation,” he continued.
“Having members of our armed forces and their spouses in my immediate family, I couldn’t be more proud to serve as vice president to a president who cares so deeply about the men and women of our armed forces and their families and our veterans. Under the president’s leadership, we’ve stood with those who serve. And we’ve stood with all of you who wore the uniform of the United States as never before.”