Prof. Wehle: 25th Amendment Offers No Solution to 'Dysfunctional Presidency'
September 11, 2018
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
In an op-ed in The Hill, University of Baltimore School of Law Professor Kimberly Wehle reacts to the recent news that White House staff had considered invoking the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to have President Donald Trump removed from office. The amendment may be effective as designed, Wehle writes, but its multiple stipulations could spark a constitutional crisis, rather than resolve what she labels "fatal problems with an incumbent presidency."
Since it was adopted in 1967, the 25th Amendment "did two important things, which (so far) have no bearing on the Trump presidency," Prof. Wehle writes. "First, it clarified the line of succession if the president dies, resigns or is disabled. This was necessary because Article II of the Constitution states only that 'the Powers and Duties of the said Office ... shall devolve on the Vice President.'
"Second, the 25th Amendment fills in a complete blank in the Constitution insofar as what happens in the event that the vice presidency becomes vacant. In the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson served 14 months as president without a vice president—the 16th time that the office had been vacant in the history of the nation. Under the amendment, the president nominates a replacement who is confirmed by a majority of both houses of Congress."
But, as Wehle poins out, the amendment offers little or no guidance to a cabinet that seeks to remove a president whom they see as ineffective, traitorous, etc. During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, presidential appointees considered invoking the 25th Amendment because they found Reagan to be inattentive and inept. The effort never got past the idea stage, Wehle says. The amendment is too complicated, too layered, to work when it comes to that kind of judgment call.
"[A]t the end of the day, impeachment remains the best bet for addressing fatal problems with an incumbent presidency," Prof. Wehle writes.
Read the op-ed in The Hill.
Learn more about Prof. Wehle.