Pelosi discusses a legislation to create a Commission on Presidential Capacity — 10/9/20
Good morning everyone. Thank you for being here. We are really. Very honored to have. Congressman, raskin. To. Lead us through his. Legislation. Which is so very important. So i hope you will prepare yourselves. For a civics, lesson. Or a presentation. On the constitution. Of the united, states. The 25th, amendment to the constitution. Was ratified. In, 1967. After the assassination. Of president, kennedy. With strong, bipartisan. Support. Members of congress, have a duty to take all necessary. Action. To preserve, continuity, of government. And protect, the stability. And integrity. Of our democracy. For the future. That is why today again it is my honor, to welcome, congressman. Jamie raskin, of maryland, a constitutional. Scholar. As he introduces. Legislation. To establish. A commission, on presidential, capacity. To discharge. The duties. And the powers, and duties, of the office. This is not about president, trump. He will face the judgment, of the voters. But he, he shows the need for us to create. A process. For future, presidents. Throughout america's, history, our leaders, have created, and strengthened, guard rails. In the constitution. To ensure, stability. And continuity. Of government. In times of crisis. The 25th. Amendment, creates a path. For serving. Stability, if a president, suffers. A crippling, physical, or mental problem, and is unquote. In the amendment. Unable. To discharge, the powers, and duties, of his office. And transfers, his power, specifically. Section, four. Of the amendment, empowers, congress to set up an independent. Body. To confront, such a crisis. Congress, has a constitutional. Duty. To lay out the process, by which a president, is. President, in capacity. And the president, of any party. Is determined. This bill honors the duty by, us creating, a standing, commission. Of top former, executive, officials, and medical, experts. Selected, in a bipartisan. Bicameral. Way. A president's, fitness for office. Must be determined. By science, and facts. This legislation. Applies to future. Presidents. But we are reminded, of the necessity, of action by the health, of the current president. With this bill the congress, honors our oath to support and defend the constitution. And protect, the american, people. And we uphold, our responsibility. To preserve. Our republic, for generations. To come. Now it is my honor to yield, to the distinguished, gentleman from maryland. A constitutional. Authority. By. Teaching, it. Honoring, it and and. Again, legislating. To honor our constitution. Congressman, raskin, thank you for your leadership. Madam speaker thank you very much, um. I'm, honored, uh by your words, and uh thank you for. Um, inviting me to present, to, the press, this legislation. In times of chaos. We must hold fast, to our constitution. The 25th, amendment is all about the stability, of the presidency, and the continuity, of the office. It's a tool, that was adopted, by overwhelming. Bipartisan. Majorities. In the house and in the senate in 1965. And overwhelming, bipartisan. Majorities, the state legislatures. Three-quarters, of whom, passed it in. 1967.. The, 25th, amendment. Is designed, to guarantee. The continuing. Peaceful, transfer, of power. In our country. The principal, authors of the amendment, like senators, birch bai, and robert f kennedy, and congressman, emmanuel, seller from new york. Wanted to resolve, basic questions, about stability, continuity. And succession, in the office of the presidency, so, section, one. Established, that if the presidency. Is vacant, the vice president, becomes. The president, and believe it or not that was, ambiguous. At the time, section two establishes, that if the vice presidency. Is vacant, the president, nominates. A vice president, and by concurrent. Majority, vote of the house and senate, that nominee, becomes. The vice president. Section. Section, three, established, a process. For the temporary. Transfer, of power by a president. Who is incapacitated. By, transmitting, to the president pro tem of the senate, and to the speaker of the house. A statement, establishing. A temporary. Disability. And this has happened multiple, times. With, uh various, presidents, including president reagan, who transferred, powers to, vice president bush, when he underwent, colorectal. Surgery. Now section, four. Deals with the problem, of a president who becomes, incapacitated. But has made no provision. To temporarily. Transfer, powers. Meaning in the words of senator birch bai, that the president, is unable, either to make or to communicate.
His Decisions. As to his own competency, to execute. The powers and duties of his office. In that case. The vice president, and a majority of the cabinet. Or. The vice president. And. Such other body that may be established, by congress. May determine, that there is a presidential. In capacity. And notify. The president pro tem and the speaker of the house, of that. Of that, inability. To conduct the powers and duties of office. In that case, the powers, would be transferred. To, the vice president, now if you, read, section 4 you will see. That the president, has the opportunity. To object, that, he actually, can conduct. The powers despite what the vice president, and. These bodies are saying. And, ultimately. There would be a vote of the house and the senate, and it requires, two-thirds. To side with, the vice president, so, it's. It's made. Procedurally. Difficult, to make sure that this is really only for the most extreme. Situations. Where you have a president, who cannot. Fulfill, the functions. Of the office, now. It's never been necessary. But the authors of the 25th, amendment thought it essential. In the nuclear, age to have a safety, valve, option. And as they often said we have 535. Members of congress, but we only have one president. In the age of covet 19. Which has killed more than 210. 000 americans. And now ravaged, the white house, staff. The wisdom, of the 25th, amendment. Is clear. What happens if a president, any, president. Ends up in a coma. Or on a ventilator, and has made no provisions. For the temporary, transfer, of power. Under section three. Who has the powers of the presidency, at that point, is it the chief of staff. Is it the vice president is the secretary, of state. This situation. Is what demands, action. Under section, four i wish that congress. Had set up this permanent, body, 50 years ago. Uh it did not do it but. Um, we do, need to do this. Certainly, in the next, congress. The framers, of the 25th amendment. Knew that you could not always count on the cabinet, to act and so congress. Has a role to play, and that role must be totally, bicameral. And totally bipartisan. And the legislation. That i introduced, today. Seek, and. Would seeks to establish, a 16-member. Commission. That could act in the event, of such an emergency. And a chair a 17th, member chosen by the 16 members themselves. Eight members, are chosen. Half by. Republican, leaders and half by democratic, leaders. From, medical, personnel. Physicians. And, um. Other medical. Authorities. The other eight members. Are drawn, from. Former, the ranks of former high-ranking. Executive, branch. Officers, including former presidents. Vice presidents, attorneys, general. Secretaries, of defense. Uh treasury, and state and surgeon, general. So. The commission, is entirely, bipartisan. And of course under the 25th amendment, it can act only in concert. With the vice president, who is the key actor. Under the 25th, amendment. So. The constitution. Is designed to give us the tools that we need to deal with the many crises.
Of Human affairs, that can. Affect. The continuity, of democratic, self-government. We are um, in the middle of a momentous, election, and as the speaker said the people. Will decide, that, but when we get through this the problem. That we're talking about today is something serious that we have to face. And, i'm, delighted, to introduce this legislation. And to answer any questions you may have thank you. Thank you. My name is. Can you address, the concern here with this commission, and this is a two-part question. Number one the idea that medical professionals. Will, on this commission. Would not have examined, the president. There are ethical, issues as to whether or not that's appropriate. For them to rule or make a, judgment on a president's health if they have not done that, and number two you say this is something in the future congress that should be addressed and speaker he says this is not about, this president, how how can we read that at this point in time, when you talk about copenhagen. This not being. So, i'll answer the first question i'll let the speaker take the second, the legislation. Um sets up a process, by which. Congress, through, concurrent. Votes, in, the house and the senate. Could direct, the commission, to conduct, a medical exam of the president. And that would include whatever the members of the commission think is necessary. To determine, whether or not there's an incapacity. If the president, refuses, and the president would have a right to refuse, that could be taken into account. By the commission which would have to rule based on all of the other evidence that it has. Again this isn't about. Any judgment anybody, has about somebody's, behavior. This is about a, diagnosis. A professional, medical, diagnosis. Let me just back up for a second just to put. Personal, uh here. When this happened, it was after the assassination. Of, of president, kennedy. And you may not, know this you weren't born yet but there was no. No uh. And lyndon johnson became president. There was no vice president. And if anything had happened to president. Johnson. And his health was not the greatest. The speaker of the house would have become the president of the united states. So this sets up. How you. Would elect, another. Of a, vice president. How a vice president we chosen, by the president, but, voted upon by the house and senate, and of course that's what happened. With. Gerald ford. He was, after. Spiral agony all that. He was appointed, the vice president. And uh, very popular, in the congress, on both sides of the aisle both sides of the capitol. I take. I love that the story about how that happened because. On his 90th, birthday. Gerald ford came to the house. Which is where he sprang, from he was the minority, leader. And i said mr, president. I'm so honored to serve i was minority, leader at the time, i'm so honored to serve. In the position. That you served, in. And he said to me. I served with your father. I served with your father and he started to tell me stories about that, when he died. I was the incoming, speaker. And we had the honor, of. Opening, up the speaker's, office and all the rest even though i wasn't going to be sworn in for a day or two but had, possession, of the speaker's, office. Open to his family. Who at the time he was minority, leader. That's where he. Presided. And again where his children, came and did their homework and all the rest, so we have a real personal. Connection, to gerald ford who filled. This. Spot. As determined. By the 25th. Amendment, to the constitution. Uh. We have we can do a couple things at once we can engage. In our political, activity, for the public to make its verdict. 25. Days, from now. And at the same time honor our responsibilities. To have something, in place, that does not, apply to this president.
But Certainly. Erases. The issue. If a president, and this is you know, not with bad intention, if a president becomes, incapacitated. By stroke, or ventilation, whatever it happens to be. That uh. He would not have the ability. As. Ronald reagan, had, as as. President george herbert. Walker bush had as president, george w bush had to make a judgment. Uh for this period of time. I transfer. The power, so this, sets up a formula it's not for any of us, to decide, that, it's about. A process. To decide, it, and as the. As the distinguished, gentleman, said without the vice president. The vice president is crucial. To this. And that would be the pres the. Vice president, of the president's, party. Just a few weeks ago, or a week or two ago you are toying with the idea of impeachment, now you're talking about the time i was doing what, you're you're toying with the idea that's not a teacher. And now you might have a predicate, that did not exist. Another, question, because that is based on a falsehood yes. Madam speaker i'm just curious about the timing. Why introduce, this legislation, now why not wait until the new session of congress. Things may have changed may have a clearer view of, the arc of of the legislation. And the congress. Wouldn't it be easier when the decks are cleared. Uh just to wait until the next session is ready, and it takes time and and there's been a call. Uh for why not execute, proc uh, the uh, 25th, amendment. Oh that's not what we're doing, we're saying let us exp, congress. Exert, the power that the constitution. Gave it jamie did you want to speak to me. Um. You know, it's interesting. That, when i found that the body had never been set up and i guess the reason is is that, there's never a really good time to do it because it's always seen just in its. Local circumstance. As opposed to the need to have this institutionally. And. So. I i guess i would say this is folk the situation. Has focused everybody's, mind. Uh on the need for. Uh. Following, through, on. This. Suggestion. In the 25th, amendment that congress set up its own body. And. I think, again in the age of covid19. Where, a lot of government, actors, have been afflicted, by it, uh, we need to act. To, my, colleague's, question i mean this is a president who has been impeached.
You've Made comments in recent days suggesting. That you think his mental state might be affected by the drugs that he's on. What do you say to those who see what you're doing now and say aha this is just another attempt. To go around, the public and try to get rid of this president. You know through a way that's not an election, well let me first say, what i said about the president, and the drugs, was. There are those. Who believe. That taking, certain, medications. Can affect. Your judgment. I don't know. Okay let's. Let's say what i actually said, i don't know. That's what i said on a call with my members. So you may have gotten it through, several times removed. There are those, medical professionals. Who say. That certain, medications. Can impair. Judgment. I don't know. And this is not and i, appreciate your question because. This is really important. It's not about any of us, making a judgment. About the president's. Well-being. It's about. This. Respected. Bipartisan. Both. Aspects, of it the. Medical, side of it and the. Dignitary. Statesman, side of it are selected. Equally, by the speaker the leader. The speaker, of the leader of the leader. In a bipartisan. Way, and the vice president. Is crucial, to that. When we do legislation. It's important to socialize. It, so that people understand. Why. So that we would like to have it in place. And and it could be said for future, presidencies, if the president. Wins this election, yes it would apply to him, if he doesn't it'll apply. To the next president, of the united, states, but this isn't about, anything, to say. Um. We've got to do something like this, about the election, it's not about the election. At all. And i thank the, distinguished. Gentleman from maryland, for this this has been, we could have done this. A while back. But the timing, is. For now because, people. Want to know we have to give some comfort to people that there is a way. To do this. Very respectful. Of not making a judgment. On the basis, of a comment, or, behavior, that we don't like. But based on a medical. Decision. Again, with the full. Involvement, of the vice president, of the united. States, or she may be, uh. At, the time, would you concede then that the president has not met the threshold, for the invoking, the 25th amendment. Well i understand, the question, would you can see that the president has not met the threshold. For invoking, the 25th, amendment. Yeah i mean, the whole point is look. We understand. That in politics. People point fingers, back and forth but the issues raised. Are of such, gravity. And central, importance, to the nature of our government, that we've got to think of this in constitutional. Terms. And. This is why we need to set up an institution. Composed. On a bipartisan. Fashion. In bicameral. Fashion, that we'll be able to make judgments. Um. Whether, it is, five months from now five years from now 50 years from now whatever it might be. Uh, you know we're living, in an age of a lot of chaos. And you know i want to say i appreciate. Uh what the speaker has to go through on a daily basis, dealing with, the chaos, of politics. Which has been made especially, intense, recently. And i appreciate, her. Uh, seeing that we need to create some constitutional. And institutional, foundations. For dealing with the chaos. And. Our forebears. Who wrote the 25th, amendment. Gave us the tools that we need, to deal with these kinds of crisis. With the american, people. Is the constitution. Of the united states. Uh it has always been uh. Gratifying. For me edifying, to go around the country, and no matter democrats, or republicans. Right or left or whatever. That the constitution. The rules. Are what really, do unify, us. And this is a comfort. To people, that it's not about who's in power saying i don't like the way he or she is acting. It's about a process. That is bipartisan. Based in the constitution. Giving congress, the power to do this which congress, hasn't, done. And again, at a time, when people understand. That it, has. Some. There's a necessity. For it but again to you to your question, it isn't about any of us making a decision, as to whether, the 25th, amendment should be. Invoked. That's. Totally, not the point, that's not up to us. That's not up to us but i do go back to mr raskin's, point just put, yourself. In a situation, and your responsibilities. To your family. Should any of you suffer a stroke or covet and go to, ventilation, and all the rest of it and are not capable, of making decisions. For your family. And, just because it's, unforeseen. Accidental. Whatever, happens. Wouldn't you have in advance, like to have had a plan. For your family. Even if it's temporary. God willing. Even if it's temporary. Uh that would be in place so that's, that's what this is. Madam speaker on a related, note. He suggested. That he should take one more because.
Thanks. You've suggested, that president trump has an altered state of mind. What, are the indications, of that. And if i may. Recently you commented, on uk brexit, policy. Do you think prime minister, boris johnson. Is an example, of somebody. Whose. Capacity, to govern is reduced, by corona virus, i have no idea. Nor do i have of president, trump. Uh i just said he, clearly, he is under medication. Any of us who is under medication. Of that seriousness. Has a has is in an altered, state. He has bragged, about the medication. That he has taken. And again. There are articles. By medical professionals. Saying. This could as i said earlier. Could have an impact on judgment, i don't the faintest, idea. About, mars johnson. But i'm glad you brought up the subject, because. I think we have to be very careful about what happens, in the uk. Uh, the. We have very stringent, rules in terms of the, food and drug administration. Here. About the number of. Clinical, trials, the timing the number of people, and all the rest so that one a drug is approved. By the fda. And the advisory. Scientific, advisory, committee. That is safe and efficacious. Then it will have the trust of the american, people. To take it. Vaccines, are about trust we want people to take it, so we pray that it is soon. The sooner the better. Not one day sooner than it is safe and efficacious. But not one day later, either. And, my concern, is that. The uk. System. For that kind of judgment, is not on a par, with ours in the united states, so if boris johnson decides, he's going to approve a drug. And this president, embraces, that that's, that's. The concern that i have, about any, similarity. Between the two. Thank you all very much. Do you think it's safe for the president to go out campaigning. Tomorrow. That was exactly the question i was going to ask. That was annoying. Yeah.