WASHINGTON (CN) — Pulling one of the last arrows in a quiver carried by Democrats increasingly disarmed of late by President Donald Trump’s behavior since his Covid-19 diagnosis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday announced legislation triggering the first steps of reviewing a president’s fitness for office as provided by the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.
Announced by the speaker and the bill’s lead sponsor, Representative Jamie Raskin, the resolution calls for the creation of a nonpartisan commission that Raskin described in interview Thursday night as not only altogether necessary to meet the moment but inherent to the Constitution’s guidance for managing unpredictable leaders in uncertain times.
“The body we are creating — this commission on presidential capacity — is called for and it is precisely what is contemplated in the Constitution,” the Maryland Democrat said.
Since both the House and Senate must pass the resolution to create the commission, it faces an uphill if not impossible legislative fight with the Republican-controlled Senate almost entirely in lockstep with President Trump.
But with 25 days to go until Election Day — and possibility ahead of Trump getting elected and Democrats flipping the Senate — the bill announced Friday is more like insurance than some Democratic flight of fancy or constitutional pipe dream.
“This stays on the table,” Raskin said Thursday, explaining that even if the act passes as expected in the House and dies on arrival in the Senate, the bill stays passed and in place when a new Congress arrives next year. “The whole purpose of the 25th Amendment was to create a body that would be there in the event of an emergency. You can have any kind of emergency. But there are 535 members of Congress and only one president. The authors wanted to make sure we paid attention to the physical and mental stability of the president so would have continuity and stability in government.”
A state of emergency is precisely where the United States has been for the last seven months, each state in the union caught in various phases of uncertainty as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to infect huge numbers and kill, at present, roughly 1,000 people a day.
Then last Friday, the President tested positive for the virus. Abruptly hospitalized, and with mixed messaging on his status from his physician Sean Conley and chief of staff Mark Meadows, respectively, questions of national security and concerns over constitutional crises were thrown into sharp relief.
Ever sharper, however, were some of the unsettling conclusions pieced together through official administration statements and widespread reporting, chief among them, confirmation of Trump’s failure to warn 2020 opponent Joe Biden that, just ahead of their first presidential debate, he was likely exposed to the virus following direct contact with Covid-19-positive White House adviser Hope Hicks.
Freshly discharged from Walter Reed Military Medical Center after a 72-hour stay where he was treated with powerful drugs including steroids, Trump issued frequently rambling video messages on Twitter and a series of confusing posts directing that pandemic-relief talks, long at an impasse in Congress, be killed. He revived talks within hours and on terms that Speaker Pelosi previously offered and saw rejected by Trump weeks before.
“A president’s fitness for office must be determined by science and fact,” Speaker Pelosi said during a press conference introducing Raskin’s legislation on Friday. "This legislation applies to future presidents but we are reminded of the necessity of action of the health of the current president. With this bill, Congress honors its oath to defend the Constitution and protect the American people."