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MegaDave
05-15-2003, 07:46 AM
Last night on West Wing President Bartlett invoked the 25th Amendment. I understand fully what this amendment does, and what it is intended for, and so forth, but I do have 2 questions about it. These, I think, may be mostly etiquette type questions open for debate, but I thought I would ask.

1.) If the elected president invokes 25, then does he have to move out of the residency portion of the White House to make way for the appointed interim president? Can the interim president order the elected president out of the White House, and if so, would the elected president be bound to follow those orders?

2.) In last nights case, it fell on the Speaker of the House to stand in for the President, as there is no Vice-President currently on the show. After the Speaker is sworn in, is he still called the speaker of the house, or can he now be called the President.

Just thought these were some interesting questions about some of the finer points of this particular amendment.

Scuba_Ben
05-15-2003, 07:52 AM
I looked up the text of the amendment (http://memory.loc.gov/const/amend.html). I read it to say that the Speaker of the House would be Acting President (in the absence of a Vice President), and wouldn't be sworn in as President. But there's nothing in there that would force the President to move out of the White House. After all, he's still the President.

(The best analogy I can think of is: If a football team's starting quarterback goes on the injury list, he's still on the team, still has his locker and player number, etc.)

Otto
05-15-2003, 08:26 AM
I'm not sure if the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 (amended) (http://www.doctorzebra.com/prez/a_act1947now.htm) is still controlling but it holds in relevant part that (a)
(1) If, by reason of death, resignation, removal from office, inability, or failure to qualify, there is neither a President nor Vice President to discharge the powers and duties of the office of President, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall, upon his resignation as Speaker and as Representative in Congress, act as President. I don't watch the show so I don't know the fictional circumstances but IRL if Cheney resigned and Bush became incapacitated Dennis Hastert would resign from Congress to become Acting President.

RealityChuck
05-15-2003, 08:41 AM
Originally posted by MegaDave
[B]1.) If the elected president invokes 25, then does he have to move out of the residency portion of the White House to make way for the appointed interim president? Can the interim president order the elected president out of the White House, and if so, would the elected president be bound to follow those orders?The amendment is silent on the issue, and there's no precedent to go on. In theory, the acting president has all the powers of the presidency until removed, however.

brianmelendez
05-15-2003, 08:53 AM
Originally posted by MegaDave
1.) If the elected president invokes 25, then does he have to move out of the residency portion of the White House to make way for the appointed interim president? Can the interim president order the elected president out of the White House, and if so, would the elected president be bound to follow those orders?
Yes, the Acting President can order the disabled incumbent out of the White House. Whether the Acting President would actually do so, in light of considerations of politics and courtesy, is another question. But the law says thatThe President . . . . shall be entitled also to the use of the furniture and other effects belonging to the United States and kept in the Executive Residence at the White House.3 U.S.C. 102 (http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/3/102.html). As long as the Acting President serves, that entitlement belongs to him.

kunilou
05-15-2003, 10:23 AM
The title goes with the duties.

The Speaker would have resigned his post, so he wouldn't be called "Mr. Speaker." He would have at least as much right to be called Mr. President as the President Pro Tem of the Senate has to be called Mr. President while the Senate is in session.

As for how long the disabled President gets to live in the White House, that's more an issue of courtesy than law. Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson certainly didn't boot the widows of their predecessors out. The Nixons cleared out of the White House quickly, but Gerald Ford didn't throw their belongings out in the front yard.

KGS
05-15-2003, 11:22 AM
...and Pres. David Palmer on 24 was removed from office by the 25th Amendment, as well.

I'm convinced that Amendment was created solely to be used as a cheesy plot device for filmmakers....

Duckster
05-15-2003, 12:02 PM
Originally posted by KGS
...and Pres. David Palmer on 24 was removed from office by the 25th Amendment, as well.

If you recall on the TV series 24 the President was involuntarily removed from office under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment.

However, on the TV series The West Wing, the President voluntarily and temporarily stepped down from the office under Section 3 of the 25th Amendment.

A small, but significant difference.

Eirik
05-15-2003, 12:14 PM
Okay, here's a slight hijack. What happens in a "West Wing" scenerio if the acting President simply decides to take over power permenantly? He's President, after all. Can he be forced to step down and let the elected President take back over? I ask because it looks to me like that's the exact situation they were setting up last night.

and as a side note, John Goodman is the luckiest man in the world. King of England, President of the United States... powerful guy. :-)

MegaDave
05-15-2003, 12:36 PM
Last night they had a letter giving the power to the interim president and a letter giving in back to the elected president. I would imagine that the second letter sets forth specific circumstances in which the power would convert back to the elected president, i.e., when his daughter was found and things calmed down.

I would imagine that any circumstance where section 3 of 25 was used could be set up in a similar way. This would prevent anyone from basically usurping power of the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

Otto
05-15-2003, 12:58 PM
Okay, here's a slight hijack. What happens in a "West Wing" scenerio if the acting President simply decides to take over power permenantly? He's President, after all. Can he be forced to step down and let the elected President take back over? I ask because it looks to me like that's the exact situation they were setting up last night. From the Amendmet: Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President. (emphasis added)

So if the Acting President refused to relinquish power upon the transmittal of the required declaration, presumably those people loyal to the President, the Constitution and the nation would force the issue by refusing to accomodate the power grab in any way. There is no mechanism under Section 3 to dispute the president's fitness to resume office. Such dispute could be initiated under Section 4 by the VP but not by the Acting President.

Duckster
05-15-2003, 01:05 PM
Originally posted by Eirik
Okay, here's a slight hijack. What happens in a "West Wing" scenerio if the acting President simply decides to take over power permenantly?

You can find the answer by reading the 25th Amendment.

PigBoy
05-15-2003, 02:11 PM
Here's my 25th Amendment question. From section 4:
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session.
So the VP and Cabinet submit their "The President is unable to discharge his duties" letter, and the VP becomes Acting President. Then the President sends his "No, I'm fine" letter and is restored. Then the VP and Cabinet send their "No, seriously, he's unable" letter, and it's up to Congress to decide. While Congress is making their decision, who is acting as President- the President himself or the Vice President?

Dewey Cheatem Undhow
05-15-2003, 02:13 PM
Didn't see the West Wing last night so I don't know if the show mentioned this, but it should be pointed out that this has happened in the past: Ronald Reagan stepped down for a day while he underwent surgery on his colon, allowing George HW Bush to occupy the Oval Office during that time.

brianmelendez
05-15-2003, 02:53 PM
Originally posted by PigBoy
Here's my 25th Amendment question. From section 4:

So the VP and Cabinet submit their "The President is unable to discharge his duties" letter, and the VP becomes Acting President. Then the President sends his "No, I'm fine" letter and is restored. Then the VP and Cabinet send their "No, seriously, he's unable" letter, and it's up to Congress to decide. While Congress is making their decision, who is acting as President- the President himself or the Vice President?
Excellent question: there are several loopholes in the 25th amendment and the Presidential Succession Act, and this is one of the most significant. The amendment's text itself does not answer this question. But it is clear from the legislative history that the amendment's framers intended that a President whose resumption of the Presidency was challenged would not actually resume the office until Congress either decided the issue in the President's favor, or did not decide the issue within the 21-day period that the Constitution allows. That history is recounted in One Heartbeat Away by Birch Bayh and The 25th Amendment by John Feerick.

But it is questionable whether, in the midst of a dramatic constitutional crisis, that legislative history will be readily available, let alone persuasive.

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