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Buzzwords: Impeachment v. 25th Amendment (Guest Blog)

This guest blog was taken from an informative (and well researched) Facebook post by Mark Westpfahl. Westpfahl is a Social Studies educator in the St. Paul Minnesota School District and serves as Vice President of the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies.

Mark Westpfahl, SS Educator

#Civics Lesson - 25th Amendment? Impeachment?

Ok, so what does it take to invoke the 25th Amendment?

Let's take a look. The Vice President of the United States can convene a meeting of the President's cabinet.

The cabinet is comprised of 23 members - 1 Vice President, 15 principal officers, 7 other members: The Vice President, Secretaries of State, Defense, Agriculture, Education, Commerce, Labor, Health, Human Services, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and the Attorney General, White House Chief of Staff, Trade Representative, Directors of National Intelligence, Office of Management and Budget, Central Intelligence Agency, and Administrators of the EPA, Small Business Administration.

* It should be noted that the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, and Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, resigned yesterday (1/7/2021).

The Vice President would need a majority of the Cabinet to agree to remove the President. With 22 current members of the Cabinet, 12 would need to agree to removal.

At that point, the President of the United States could appeal with a letter to Congress (It's a little unclear as to how long the President has to make his appeal.

If he does appeal to Congress, the Vice President and the Cabinet have up to 4 days to make their case to Congress as to why they are making their appeal to remove the President.

At that point, Congress would need to vote to remove him. (Again, if Trump doesn't appeal, Congress would not need to act. The key would be, how long does the President have to object? 2/3 of the House (290) and 2/3 of the Senate (67) would need to vote in the affirmative to remove the President.

At present, the Senate is still 51-48, as the senators-elect from Georgia have not been certified and sworn in as United States Senators. It would likely be very difficult for 19 Republican Senators to agree to remove the President with less than 13 days.

If the 25th was invoked this evening, It's likely that the President would try to stall as long as possible before writing his appeal to Congress. If he did write and submit it by Saturday night, that would give Congress up to 4 days to discuss - 1 week before his term ends.

According to the New York Times at 5:00pm Central on January 7, 2021, it is being reported that sources say the Vice President is not in favor of invoking the 25 Amendment .

This is what this looks like in real numbers:

Is it true that the House is drafting Articles of Impeachment? Yes. They are being distributed to House Members but have not formally been introduced.

Is it possible to impeach a President a second time. Yes. Has it happened before? No.

If an impeachment process occurs, how could the possibly get things done in less than two weeks when the last process took several months? Congress could agree to move expeditiously.

Depending on the Rules, the House could choose to vote very quickly, turning it to the Senate. If the Senate would agree to take up the vote before the President's term is up, they could convict the President if only a few Republican Senators cross over, which could potentially happen this time, which would result in the removal of the President.

Why do that with just a few days left in the term? To limit the potential harm that could occur. To limit the potential actions the President is likely to do in his final days in office. If he is convicted, the wording could prohibit him from ever running for office again.

If convicted by the Senate, the President would not be able to pardon himself (Law scholars are uncertain if the President can even pardon himself... especially if he hasn't been charged with/convicted of a crime)... because as he would be immediately removed from power.

There is another reason why the Democrats might want to impeach and try to convince, even if it is the morning of the inauguration. Former Presidents are entitled to a pension (currently $219,200 per year). He'd also get transition funding for the expenses of leaving office. Additionally, he would receive private office staff and related funding, provided by the Administrator of the General Services Administration, and medical treatment in military hospitals for the remainder of his life.

President Barack Obama signed the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 which means all Presidents will receive Secret Service Protection for the remainder of their lives. (This was previously for 10 years after their term ended.)

If the Senate convicts the President, the President would be stripped from being able to receive these entitlements. A convicted President would also be open to additional lawsuits. So what will happen? Who knows. What could happen? A lot. Is Congress willing to set a precedent? Maybe.

Will the 25th Amendment be looked at over the next several years too see how the process could be expedited? Potentially. Will future action happen? Likely not anytime soon. Laws usually take a long time. Amendments usually take even longer.


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