25 Amendment, Section 4: Vice Presidential — Cabinet declaration

Section 4 is the only part of the amendment that has never been invoked.It allows the Vice President, together with a “majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide”, to declare the President “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” by submitting a written declaration to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. As with Section 3, the Vice President would become Acting President.

Section 4 is meant to be invoked should the President’s incapacitation prevent him from discharging his duties, but he is unable or unwilling to provide the written declaration called for by Section 3. The President may resume exercising the Presidential duties by sending a written declaration to the President pro tempore and the Speaker of the House.

Should the Vice President and Cabinet believe the President is still “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”, they may within four days of the President’s declaration submit another declaration that the President is incapacitated. If not already in session, the Congress must then assemble within 48 hours. The Congress has 21 days to decide the issue. If within the 21 days two-thirds of each house of Congress vote that the President is incapacitated, the Vice President would “continue” to be Acting President. Should the Congress resolve the issue in favor of the President, or make no decision within the 21 days allotted, then the President would “resume” discharging the powers and duties of his office. The use of the words “continue” and “resume” imply that the Vice President remains Acting President while Congress deliberates.

However, the President may again submit a written declaration of recovery to the President pro tempore and the Speaker of the House. That declaration could be responded to by the Acting President and the Cabinet in the same way as stated earlier. The specified 21-day Congressional procedure would start again.

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