WASHINGTON (WJZ) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin announced legislation Friday that would set up a process allowing Congress to establish a commission to determine a president’s fitness to serve.
The Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of Office Act would create a standing committee of medical experts and other leaders to determine a president’s fitness for office and would apply to future presidents, Pelosi said.
Raskin said the committee would be made up of 16 members, eight chosen by Democrats and eight by Republicans, plus a chairperson chosen by the committee itself.
Under the legislation, Congress would be able to vote on whether to order a medical examination of a president to evaluate their fitness to serve. A president could refuse the exam but the commission would be able to factor that refusal into its determination.
Ultimately, if the commission found the president was incapable of serving, the vice president would take over.
“A president’s fitness for office must be determined by science and facts,” Pelosi said. “This legislation applies to future presidents, but we are reminded of the necessity of action by the health of the current president.”
Pelosi added it’s not about a president’s behavior but rather a professional medical diagnosis.
President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 one week ago and spent three days being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda.
As he was hospitalized, some wondered about whether the 25th Amendment, which lays out a succession plan in the event a president dies or is incapable of leading temporarily or permanently, should be invoked.
The president’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Raskin said, brought renewed attention to the issue of succession.
“The situation has focused everybody’s mind on the need for following through on this suggestion in the 25th Amendment that Congress set up its own body,” he said. “In the age of COVID-19, where a number of government actors have been afflicted by it, we need to act.”
On Twitter Friday, Trump blasted the idea, writing: “Crazy Nancy Pelosi is looking at the 25th Amendment in order to replace Joe Biden with Kamala Harris. The Dems want that to happen fast because Sleepy Joe is out of it!!!”
Crazy Nancy Pelosi is looking at the 25th Amendment in order to replace Joe Biden with Kamala Harris. The Dems want that to happen fast because Sleepy Joe is out of it!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2020
Friday’s announcement comes less than a month before the 2020 election, though Pelosi said it’s not about the election but rather about a bipartisan process.
“The timing is now because people want to know,” Pelosi said.
The House Speaker teased Friday’s announcement during a weekly news conference on Thursday. At that time, when she was asked about whether to invoke the 25th Amendment, she said she would address it on Friday.
During Friday morning’s news conference, she said that was “totally not the point” of the announcement.
“This is not about President Trump,” Pelosi said. “He will face the judgment of the voters, but he shows the need for us to create a process for future presidents.”
Raskin echoed those comments in an appearance on CNN Thursday night.
The congressman introduced similar legislation in 2017.