The Pence Letter

      2 Comments on The Pence Letter

Jennifer Epstein, of Bloomberg News, tweets a copy of a letter sent from Our Only Vice-President to the Speaker of the House, in which he says that he will not use the 25th Amendment to take power as Acting President.

So, I have two points to make about this. First, I guess, is that I actually agree with OOVP that the clause in question was designed for a President who is entirely incapacitated, f’r’ex, comatose or perhaps in some form of dementia. It is fairly carefully written to prevent a Vice-President and Cabinet removing power from a President who was aware that it was happening and wanted to prevent it. Furthermore, while I disagree with why he thinks it’s inappropriate for the House to demand he take power, I think it’s inappropriate for the House to pass such a resolution. The House has a Constitutional provision for removing a President who it wants gone; that is impeachment and they should get on with it.

But my second point is that the 25th Amendment makes it the responsibility of the Vice-President to judge the President’s capacity or incapacity—and the letter conspicuously fails to state that judgment. I think it would be far more impressive and rhetorically devastating for the letter to include—and possibly to consist entirely of—a sentence like “It is my opinion that the President is fully capable of fulfilling his duties, and that he is doing so.” And yet there is no such sentence.

2 thoughts on “The Pence Letter

  1. Michael

    The absence of that sentence is indeed conspicuous. The entire letter is a blame-shifting dodge rather than a reasoned disagreement about the core issue.

    I disagree that the 25th Amendment “is fairly carefully written to prevent a Vice-President and Cabinet removing power from a President who was aware that it was happening and wanted to prevent it.” It explicitly allows for the VP and Cabinet to temporarily assume power AND retain that power temporarily even in the face of disagreement from the President. After the President tells Congress that he’s just fine and should be put back in charge, there’s a 4-day grace period for the VP and Cabinet to disagree, a 2-day grace period for Congress to get back into session if they aren’t in session, and a 21-day grace period for Congress to make up their minds. During that time, the VP remains as Acting President. Nearly 4 weeks is a long time, especially if the VP acts with only 2 weeks left in the term.

    1. Vardibidian Post author

      It’s true that a Vice-President (with the Cabinet, of course) could take power for a few days, or (with the passive complicity of Congressional Majorities) a month, and we have been close enough to the end of the term that if the Vice-President did in fact think the President incapable, he should have acted. Ordinarily, it’s hard to imagine a Congress being willing to stall on a usurpation for a month in the middle of a term but not willing to go ahead and impeach, unless of course the President really were temporarily incapacitated. On the other hand, lately my sense of what a Congressional Majority would or would not do has been… unreliable.



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