Friday Constitutional 20 – Amendments 24 And 25
Happy Friday and welcome to the penultimate Friday Constitutional! This is the Dog’s series looking at the United States Constitution from a layman’s perspective. For those who like to have access to the entire series, all of the previous installments in this series can be found at the following links:
Friday Constitutional 1 – Preamble, Article One, Sections 1 and 2
Friday Constitutional 2 – Article One, Sections 3 and 4
Friday Constitutional 3 – Article One, Sections 5 and 6
Friday Constitutional 4 – Article One; Sections 7 and 8
Friday Constitutional 5- Article One, Sections 9 And 10
Friday Constitutional 6 – Article Two, Section One, Clauses 1-3
Friday Constitutional 7 – Article Two, Sections 1-4
Friday Constitutional 8 – Article 3 Judicial Branch
Friday Constitutional 9 – Article 4 Relationships Between The States
Friday Constitutional 10 – Articles 5, 6 and 7
Friday Constitutional 11 – Amendments 1 and 2
Friday Constitutional 12 – Amendments 3 And 4
Friday Constitutional 13 – Amendments 5 And 6
Friday Constitutional 14 – Amendments 7 – 10
Friday Constitutional 15 – Amendments 11 And 12
Friday Constitutional 16 – Amendments 13 And 14, Slavery and Equal Protection
Friday Constitutional 17 – Amendments 15 – 17
Friday Constitutional 18 – Amendments 18, 19 And 20
Friday Constitutional 19 – Amendments 21, 22 And 23
Today we will look at Amendments Twenty-Four and Twenty-Five.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
As you can tell from the text of Section One this Amendment was enacted to combat the poll tax many Southern States had enacted to reduce the number of African Americans from voting. It is very clear; there can be no test for the right to vote based on taxes, either being paid at the time of the poll or being owed. You can be an indicted tax evader and still have the right to cast your vote.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section Two is the standard boiler plate for Constitutional Amendments. One interesting thing is the lack of a time schedule for the enactment of this Amendment. Starting with the 18th Amendment most of them included a seven year period where if the Amendment was not ratified by enough States it would expire as a proposed Amendment.
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President
This section was put in to specifically clarify that in the event a President is has permanently left office for whatever reason, the Vice President would ascend to that office. The wording in Article Two, Section One, Clause 6 of the Constitution was not clear and this had lead to confusion in the past.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
At the time this Amendment was proposed there had been sixteen times in the history of the nation that the post of Vice President had been left empty for various reasons (resignation, taking the post of President, death, etc.). This section provides a clear method for filling this post.
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.
Section Three is important as it allows a President to temporarily delegate his powers to the Vice President, without actually leaving the post of President, by sending a letter to the President pro tempore of the Senate. When he is able to return to duty, this is accomplished by sending another letter.
While it was total drama, there was a pretty good plot twist in the TV series “West Wing” where the President uses this provision when his daughter is kidnapped. It is unlikely that this is what the writers of this section were thinking when they inserted it, but it is within the limits of the Amendment.
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.
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. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
Let’s all hope that we never see the situation that is imagined in this section in real life. The basic idea is that there must be a mechanism to remove, temporarily, the President from his powers. This might mean that he has had a stroke, or something like that and can’t do it himself under Section Three of this Amendment, or it could be that he is somehow mentally ill.
In the second case a President might very well contest his removal, but the Vice President and the Cabinet Secretaries could reassert that he or she is unable to serve and that would throw it to the Congress to decide. The Amendment provides that Congress must meet with in 48 hours, and has only three weeks to come to a decision as to who is right. The single question would be is the current President able to discharge the office? If it is found he can not, he is not removed as President, but the Vice President continues to hold the duties if not title of President of the United States.
This would be the mother of all Constitutional crises, as it would almost surely split the Party of any sitting president and would leave the country in a state of question as to who had the ultimate authority. There is no actual question, for the entire time of the conflict the Vice President would be in charge, but that would not prevent the US from feeling rudderless.
The fall out one way or the other would be extreme. Any President that had this happen to them would almost certainly resign.
If the President prevailed in Congress, then any Secretary that acted this way would be asked to resign (they serve as the pleasure of the President, and there would be very little pleasure) and there would be an unbridgeable rift between the President and Vice President.
On that cheery note we will call it a week. So, fellow citizens, what do you think, will we ever see Section 4 of the 25th Amendment used?
The floor is yours.