A Democratic congressman has suggested convening a special committee of psychiatrists and other doctors whose job would be to determine if President Donald Trump is fit to serve in the Oval Office.
Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who also teaches constitutional law at American University, has predictably failed to attract any Republicans to his banner.
But the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment does allow for a majority of the president’s cabinet, or ‘such other body as Congress may by law provide,’ to decide if an Oval Office occupant is unable to carry out his duties – and then to put it to a full congressional vote.
Vice President Mike Pence would also have to agree, which could slow down the process – or speed it up if he wanted the levers of power for himself.
The 25th Amendment has been around since shortly after the John F. Kennedy assassination, but Congress has never formed its own committee in case it’s needed to judge a president’s mental health.
Raskin’s bill would allow the four Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate to each choose a psychiatrist and another doctor. Then each party would add a former statesman – like a retired president or vice president.
The final group of 10 would meet and choose an 11th member, who would become the committee’s chairman.
Once the group is officially seated, the House and Senate could direct it through a joint resolution to conduct an actual examination of the president ‘to determine whether the president is incapacitated, either mentally or physically,’ according to the Raskin bill.
And if the president refuses to participate, the bill dictates, that ‘shall be taken into consideration by the commission in reaching a conclusion.’
Under the 25th Amendment, such a committee – or the president’s cabinet – can notify Congress in writing that a sitting president is unfit. In either case the vice president must concur, and he would immediately become ‘acting president.’
Presidents have voluntarily transferred their powers to vice presidents in the past, including when they are put under anesthesia for medical procedures.
In the case of Raskin’s plan, the Constitution holds that both houses of Congress would hold a vote within three weeks.
If two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate agreed that the president couldn’t discharge his duties, he would be dismissed.
Raskin’s plan could have a fatal flaw, however: Legal scholars tend to agree that when the Constitution’s framers first provided for the replacement of a president with an ‘inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the Office,’ they weren’t talking about mere eccentricities.
And when the 25th Amendment was sent to the states for ratification in 1965, the Senate agreed that ‘inability’ meant that a president was ‘unable to make or communicate his decisions’ and suffered from a ‘mental debility’ rendering him ‘unable or unwilling to make any rational decision.’
So far two dozen members of the House, all Democrats, have signed on to cosponsor the bill.
Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a far-left liberal Democrat, claimed Friday in a Fox Business Channel interview that Congress can remove ‘incompetent’ presidents.
‘The 25th Amendment is utilized when a president is perceived to be incompetent or unable to do his or her job,’ she said.
Also on Friday, MSNBC co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski authored an op-ed in The Washington Post whose headline argued ‘Donald Trump is not well.’
The pair were responding to a widely criticized tweet in which Trump complained about their behavoior around the New Year and alleged that Brzezinski was bleeding from a bad facelift.
During a press conference on Thursday, Raskin called Trump a ‘barbarian’ and said: ‘Something is deeply wrong at the White House.’
He called on ‘whoever is in control over there’ to ‘pull back from this terrible situation.’