For those of you who watched West Wing (or you are up on your amendments), you may know what the 25th amendment is set up to do. Several episodes of the television series mentions the amendment. For those of you aren’t aware, The Twenty-fifth amendment deals with Presidential succession.
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
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.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days 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. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
Before this amendment was passed by Congress in 1965 (and ratified in 1967), the succession to president had been vague as far as the constitution went. There were of course precedent since by this time 8 Presidents had died in office, and several times the Vice Presidency was vacant.
However, before this amendment it wasn’t known what the exact line was. Article 1, Section II, Clause 6 specifies that the Vice President will recieve the duties, and if there isn’t a Vice President, then Congress had the duty of selecting an Acting President.
When William Henry Harrison became the first President to die in office, people debated if the Vice President was really a President, or just an Acting President. John Tyler took the oath of office, making the “Tyler Precedent” for Vice Presidents becoming full fledged presidents upon assuming the powers of their predecessor.
The Twenty-Fifth amendment clarifies the line of secession, and what Congress can do should something happen.
Section One reiterates that should a President die, resign or be removed from office for some reason, the Vice President should assume the title and duties of the Presidency. This was also stated in the 12th amendment
Section Two clarifies that should a vacancy appear in the Vice Presidency, the President must present Congress with a nomination for them to confirm.
Section Three and Four get a little more involved. The example in the West Wing is that Jed Bartlet’s daughter had recently been kidnapped. Reasonably, Jed was overwealmed and decided he could not be a worried father and a President at the same time right then and drafted a notice to Congress that he felt unfit to uphold his duties.
However, right before this event they had been without a Vice President for awhile as Bartlet’s first Vice President had resigned after a sex-scandal. Thus the job went to the Speaker of the House, Glenn Walken.
Basically this section of the amendment lists what should happen if over the course of the Presidents term he feels he can not hold up his job. It could be something like Bartlet’s emotional tormirl or perhaps a serious surgery that might keep him out of work for an extended time period. If this happens, the President can write in to Congress and temporary the Vice President will assume the role of Acting President till it is determined that the President can resume, by either writing another note to Congress.
The Vice President and the President’s senior officers can also write to congress and claim he is unfit for duty. At this point the Vice President would become Acting President. The President could refute this and Congress would then have a month or so to review and make a decision on whether the President really is ready to resume his duties.
Article 1, Section II, Clause 6 (WIKI)
Presidential Sucession Acts (WIKI)
Presidential Sucession Act of 1941 (Senate)