The U.S. House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution on Tuesday that calls on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove President Trump from office.
Citing Trump’s role in inciting “a massive violent invasion of the United States Capitol” on Jan. 6, the day the president had summoned his supporters to Washington to protest the certification of the Electoral College vote formalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the resolution, introduced by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., passed by a largely party line vote of 223-205. One Republican, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, was the only lawmaker to break ranks.
The resolution asked Pence “to immediately use his powers under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments in the Cabinet to declare what is obvious to a horrified Nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties and powers of his office.”
Yet even as the House was in the process of voting on whether to proceed with the resolution, Pence released a letter that he had sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating that he would not invoke the 25th Amendment to seek to remove Trump from office.
“I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution,” Pence said in the letter, adding that invoking the amendment “would set a terrible precedent.”
Ratified in 1967 following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the 25th Amendment allows for the formal transfer of a president’s duties should he or she die in office or become disabled. Under Section 4 of the amendment, a president can be stripped of their powers, although remaining technically in office, if the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet vote to do so.
In introducing the resolution for a vote, Raskin, detailing the attack on the nation’s Capitol, placed the blame for the chaos at Trump’s feet.
“I think every member of this body should be able to agree that this president is not meeting the most minimal duties of office. He is not meeting the oath that he swore to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic,” Raskin said.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., spoke first on behalf of Republicans who voted against the resolution.
“What a sad an ominous way to begin the 117th Congress. Hasn’t this body done enough to divide our country and abuse our Constitution without carrying that damage into the new session?” McClintock said, adding that Trump had “never suggested rampaging the Capitol and disrupting the Congress.”
What followed was a charged partisan debate in which Democrats repeatedly bashed Trump and Republicans largely went after them for it and neither side seemed to agree on much.
While Pence would still have needed to convince a majority of the 15 officials authorized to vote (the heads of executive departments, including both confirmed and acting Cabinet secretaries) to invoke the 25th Amendment, his letter to Pelosi on Tuesday made clear that would not happen.
During a Monday night meeting with Trump, the first since the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Pence reportedly pledged to work with the president for the remainder of his term.
If Pence had invoked the 25th Amendment and convinced eight or more of the 15 Cabinet members to join him, Pence would have become acting president for the few days that remain before Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.
House Democrats, meanwhile, had anticipated Pence’s refusal to cooperate with their plan, and planned a vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday on the charge of “incitement of insurrection.” At least three House Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said they would vote to impeach Trump. That resolution can pass with a simple majority. But to remove Trump from office requires the votes of two-thirds of the Senate, which for the time being still has a Republican majority.
Here is the full text of the 25th Amendment resolution:
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