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WASHINGTON, D.C. October 9, 2020 – Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today convened a press conference to introduce legislation establishing a Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office. The legislation, which is modeled on a bill introduced by Rep. Raskin in 2017, will enable Congress to ensure effective and uninterrupted leadership in the highest office in the Executive Branch of government by creating the body and process called for in Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Raskin’s bill has 38 cosponsors.
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment empowers Congress to establish a permanent “body” that, with the concurrence of the Vice President, can declare that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Raskin’s bill establishes this independent nonpartisan body: The Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office.
In emergency situations, Congress could pass a concurrent resolution requiring the Commission to examine the President, determine his/her ability to execute the powers and duties of the office, and report its findings to Congress. If presidential incapacity exists, the Vice President would immediately assume the role of Acting President.
“The 25th Amendment was adopted 50 years ago, but Congress has never set up the body it calls for to determine presidential fitness in the event of physical or psychological incapacity. Now is the time to do it,” said Raskin.
The Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader each select four physicians and four psychiatrists to serve on the Commission. Additionally, the Democratic and Republican leaders of each chamber will select, by party, four retired statespersons (e.g., former Presidents, Vice Presidents, Attorneys and Surgeons General, Secretaries of State, Defense, and Treasury) to serve. The 16 appointed members then select a 17th member, who acts as the Chair of the Commission. In order to avoid conflicts of interest and both civilian and military chain of command issues, none of the members can be current elected officials, federal employees, or members of the active or reserve military.
Although Section 4 of the 25th Amendment has not been invoked yet, other provisions of the Amendment have been. For example, when Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush underwent medical procedures, they notified Congress and temporarily delegated presidential authority to their Vice Presidents.
The livestream of today’s press conference is available here.
The bill is cosponsored by the following Members: Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Gwen Moore, Val Demings, Veronica Escobar, Mary Gay Scanlon, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Madeleine Dean, David Cicilline, Diana DeGette, Adrian Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Donna Shalala, Ted Lieu, Earl Bluemenauer, Jan Schakowsky, James P. McGovern, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Sylvia R. Garcia, Joe Neguse, Kweisi Mfume, Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Gerald E. Connolly, Deb Haaland, J. Luis Correa, Mark DeSaulnier, Ted Deutch, Karen Bass, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Nydia M. Velazquez, Eric Swalwell, Norma Torres, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Steve Cohen.