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What happens if a president becomes incapacitated?

What happens if a president becomes incapacitated?
Posted at 7:30 AM, Oct 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-02 12:34:33-04

After President Donald Trump announced early Friday morning that he tested positive for COVID-19, many are wondering what happens if a president becomes incapacitated.

White House Physician Dr. Sean Conley said in a memo that the president and First Lady Melania Trump "are both well at this time," but did not say whether they were experiencing symptoms of the virus.

Trump, who is 74 years old, meets several categories that science found makes COVID-19 symptoms worse — his age, his gender, and his weight. The president is technically obese through his body-mass index.

The 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which was adopted on Feb. 10, 1967, deals with the issues of presidential succession and who runs the country if the president is incapacitated.

Section 3 of the 25th Amendment allows the president to submit, in writing, that he is not able to discharge the powers of the office. In that case, the president will voluntarily transfer the authority to the vice president, but the VP does not become president and the president remains in office.

Section 3 was invoked under President Ronald Reagan when he underwent a colonoscopy, and twice under President George W. Bush when he underwent colonoscopies.

In the case of Trump, he could voluntarily transfer power to Vice President Mike Pence if he believes it is necessary.

Section 4 also gives the president's Cabinet the ability to strip him of power if the Cabinet believes he has become incapacitated. This Section has not been invoked. In this case, the Vice President would assume the powers of the office and become the Acting President.

"Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President," Section 4 reads.

This story was originally published by Max White on WXYZ in Detroit.