The news that President Joe Biden has tested positive has some wondering what happens if he should become too ill to discharge his duties as president.
Here is a look at the process for running the government should the president become unable.
The 25th Amendment
The 25th Amendment to the Constitution outlines the presidential line of succession, or who becomes president, should the president become disabled, resign or be removed from office.
The Amendment was adopted on Feb. 10, 1967, in response to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
How does it work?
Under Section 3 of the 25th Amendment, the president would declare in writing that he is unable to discharge his duties as president. When he does that, Vice President Kamala Harris would become acting president.
That does not mean that Biden is not still the president or that he would be out of office.
Biden would resume his job as president by declaring in writing that he is well enough to run the country.
Can Biden be made to step away from his job?
Section 4 of the amendment allows for the vice president and a majority of either Cabinet officials or “such other body as Congress may by law provide” to inform leaders in the House and Senate that the president “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
That clause states, “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.”
In short, that means Harris, along with a majority of the members of the Cabinet, could decide the president is unable to do his job and tell Congress that he should be barred from performing the duties of president.
In that case, Harris would assume the duties of president.
A president can fight such a move by a vice president, and that action would send the decision on removal to a vote in Congress.
If two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote that the president is unable to discharge the duties of his office, the vice president would continue as acting president until after the next scheduled presidential election.
If the vote in Congress fails, the president would resume his duties.
What happens if he can no longer serve? Who is president?
Should the president be incapacitated by the virus and be unable to fill out his term, Harris would become president and would serve until noon on Jan. 21, 2025.
If Harris or others in the Cabinet should become ill and unable to serve, here is the line of succession to the presidency of the United States.
1. Vice President
2. Speaker of the House of Representatives
3. President pro tempore of the Senate
4. Secretary of State
5. Secretary of the Treasury
6. Secretary of Defense
7. Attorney General
8. Secretary of the Interior
9. Secretary of Agriculture
10. Secretary of Commerce
11. Secretary of Labor
12. Secretary of Health and Human Services
13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
14. Secretary of Transportation
15. Secretary of Energy
16. Secretary of Education
17. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
18. Secretary of Homeland Security
©2022 Cox Media Group