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25th Amendment: A Long Shot for Presidential Removal

Nebraska was the first state to ratify the 25th Amendment, which outlines the procedure to follow should a U.S. president become unable to serve. (Tom Lohdam/Flickr)
Nebraska was the first state to ratify the 25th Amendment, which outlines the procedure to follow should a U.S. president become unable to serve. (Tom Lohdam/Flickr)
February 20, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Presidents Day protest rallies taking place Monday may focus on impeaching President Donald Trump, but at least one political expert says it would be a long shot.

Some opponents of the president have suggested invoking the 25th Amendment, which outlines the procedures for when a sitting president is no longer capable of performing the duties of the office. But Kelly Coyle, federal affairs project director with the online political encyclopedia Ballotpedia, explained that Section 4 of the amendment presents a particular challenge in carrying out the process.

"Vice President Pence and a majority of President Trump's cabinet members would have to say this president is incapable of serving,” Coyle said. “Or Vice President Pence and then this undefined 'body of Congress’ - which is where the confusion is - they would have to say that Trump is not able to serve. "

Coyle said that "invoking the 25th" is a long process, and extremely unlikely.

Last week, Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon called for a review of the 25th Amendment, and Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, said on Sunday that he's heard from Republican colleagues who are concerned about the president's mental health. Others cited ethics concerns.

The latest Gallup polling showed the president's approval rating is at 40 percent overall, with eight percent of Democrats and 87 percent of Republicans having a favorable view of his performance.

The 25th Amendment was developed after John F. Kennedy's assassination. Coyle said there are a number of times in U.S. history when presidents have been incapacitated, and there was no clear guidance for what to do. Section Four of the amendment has never been invoked, but other sections have.

"Section 1 and 2, that's been used three times, and that was all regarding Nixon administration scandals,” she said. "And then Section 3, that was used three times for medical procedures; one was under Reagan and twice for George W. Bush."

Nebraska was the first state to ratify the 25th Amendment, which was adopted 50 years ago.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE