A Democratic congressman has proposed 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.
Raskin has made no bones about the fact that his intentions are specific to President Trump.
‘Trump’s mental incapacity is no laughing matter,’ he tweeted last month. ‘#25thAmendment gives us a way to deal with this problem.’
Raskin summed up his reasoning for Yahoo News on Friday: ‘In case of emergency, break glass.’
‘I assume every human being is allowed one or two errant and seemingly deranged tweets,’ he said.
‘The question is whether you have a sustained pattern of behavior that indicates something is seriously wrong.’