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Dem lawmaker introduces bill allowing former presidents to decide if successors are fit for office

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced legislation this week to expand the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to allow former presidents and vice presidents to determine the current president’s fitness for office. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

One House Democrat sees a “fatal flaw” in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, and this week he introduced legislation to fix that perceived problem.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) presented a bill this week that would empower former presidents and vice presidents of both parties — in coordination with the current vice president — to determine the sitting president’s fitness for office, The Hill reported.

As it stands, the 25th Amendment allows for the vice president along with a majority of “the principal officers of the executive departments,” the Cabinet members, to jointly declare the president unfit to lead. Alternatively, the amendment says Congress may approve some “other body” to make such a declaration.

In Blumenauer’s mind that “other body” should be President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence’s predecessors.

“It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country’s best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively.”

This legislation comes after the Democratic lawmaker penned a February op-ed for The Oregonian, in which he suggested the 25th Amendment in its current state has a “fatal flaw.”

If the vice president and either a majority of the Cabinet members or some “other body” selected by Congress says the president is unfit to serve, the vice president would take over. However, in the event the president disagrees and refuses to step down, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate would have to vote to force his or her resignation.

Blumenauer, though, asserted the measure would not be effective if an unstable president simply fired his Cabinet members. He also suggested the department heads could feel pressured to stand by the president, even if they felt he or she was unable to serve.

“Because the Cabinet can be fired by the president,” Blumenauer argued, “there is a natural bias that would make them reluctant to acknowledge the president’s inability to serve.

“It’s time to revisit and strengthen the amendment and make sure there is a reliable mechanism in place if the president becomes unable to discharge the powers and duties of office,” he said.

Blumenauer started exploring legislation to expand the 25th Amendment earlier this year because of Trump’s “erratic behavior.” In his Oregonian piece, the Democrat pointed to the president’s frequent late-night tweets as indicative of an inability to be a stable leader.

“The erratic behavior of Donald Trump has raised new questions about his mental and emotional capacity to discharge the tremendous burdens of the most powerful position in the world,” he wrote.

Blumenauer also argued on the House floor in February that Trump has repeatedly made statements that are “demonstrably wrong,” pointing to the White House’s claims about the Washington, D.C., crowd size on Inauguration Day and the president’s oft-repeated claims about widespread voter fraud.

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