If the President of the United State dies in office, the Vice President will assume the position of the presidency. Although this is the law today, this was not always the case prior to the 25th amendment. In fact, it was never actually clear in the Constitution that the Vice-President takes over for the President. The Vice-President has taken over for the President several times in our history, usually after the president as been killed or dies of sickness and the first time this happened was when John Tyler, the 10th president, became president after William Henry Harrison died after a month as President. The 25th amendment allows for the Vice President to become president in the event of death, resignation, removal from office or impairment that prevents the current president from fulfilling his or her duties.
The Vice-presidency had been clearly defined by the 12th amendment as the running mate of the sitting president. As such, there is no risk that a member of the opposing party will gain the presidency in the event of the president being unable to serve his or her duties. Among the more important provisions of the 25th amendment are the provisions for the “Acting President.” During this condition, the Vice-President temporarily assumes the role of the President as it is assumed that the President is unable to fulfill his or her duties at the moment but will be able to in the very near future.
The 25th amendment was adopted by the states in 1967 with Nebraska and Wisconsin being the first states to ratify it and Nevada the 38th and last state needed to have a ¾ majority.
What are the important sections of the 25th amendment?
There are four key sections to the 25th amendment:
Section 1: the process where the Vice President becomes President if the current President dies, resigns or is removed from office becomes official.
Section 2: if the Vice Presidency becomes vacant, the President may choose a new Vice President, who must be voted and approved by Congress before the candidate can have the position
Section 3: the president may temporarily make the Vice-President the Acting President with a written declaration. This lasts until a second declaration is made that ends this condition. This has been done a few times, most recently when President Bush underwent two medical procedures in 2002 and 2007 and passed power to Vice President Cheney.
Section 4: this is an emergency provision that allows the Vice President and members of the Cabinet to declare the President unfit to carry out the duties of the Presidency. The President may assert his competency (ability to serve) by sending a declaration to Congress. The Vice President and Cabinet can submit another declaration against the President, which would force Congress to reach a 2/3 majority that the President is unfit for office.
Section 4 has never been used, but Sections 1 – 3 have all been used at one time or another.