WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduced legislation Friday that would create a bipartisan commission to determine a sitting president’s ability to carry out the duties of the office.
At a press conference unveiling the legislation with its original author, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., Pelosi said the measure is not intended specifically for President Donald Trump, but she suggested he was the impetus for needing it.
“This is not about President Trump. He will face the judgement of the voters, but he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents,” she said. "This legislation applies to future presidents, but we are reminded of the necessity of action by the health of the current president."
The idea for the legislation stems from the 25th Amendment, which provides procedures for transferring power to the vice president in case of the president's death, incapacitation, removal or resignation. The amendment was ratified and approved in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One of its sections provides the vice president and majority of either the Cabinet "or such other body as Congress may by law provide" with a mechanism to transfer power from the president.
The commission would consist of 16 members, chosen both by Democrats and Republicans, who are medical experts or former high-ranking executive branch officials such as former members of a president’s Cabinet. The 17th member, the chair, would be selected by the rest of the commission’s members.
Under the legislation, Congress could pass a concurrent resolution requiring the commission to conduct a medical exam of the president to determine his or her capacity to continue the job. The commission would then report its findings to Congress, and if it found that presidential incapacity exists, the vice president would immediately assume the role of acting president.
When the 25th Amendment was ratified after Kennedy’s assassination, Congress did not create that independent body. Raskin says lawmakers should now pass the measure to create such a body for future presidents.
Asked Friday if Trump has met the threshold to invoke the 25th Amendment, Pelosi said, “That’s not for us to decide.”