Early Returns

The Useless Way to Remove a President

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

Torpedo the 25th.

Photographer: iStockphoto/Getty images

When I wrote about the possibility of using the 25th Amendment to remove Donald Trump, I mostly focused on the dangers to democracy in breaking norms if the provisions for removing the president were to be used illegitimately. (See also a nice piece on the history of the 25th from Jeffrey Rosen in the Atlantic, which properly emphasizes the political nature of the process.) But it's worth emphasizing that the untried procedures laid out by the text might lead to chaos -- or worse. 

Constitutional scholar Brian Kalt laid out the problems in a Wall Street Journal column over the weekend. He notes the interim period described by the amendment during which a president who has been deposed in favor of the vice president by his or her cabinet claims to be able to govern. During the four days before Congress would be obliged to act, the president and the vice president might both claim to hold the office, and it's unclear how the claims would be resolved. What if the president, upon asserting his or her fitness for office, fired the disloyal members of the cabinet? Would that be a valid action? Who would decide, and how long would it take?

Another problem comes if Congress does (by a two-thirds vote of both chambers) support the cabinet. Unlike in impeachment and conviction by the Senate, the original president would not be removed. Instead, the vice president would continue to be the acting president, leaving the original president free to endlessly contest Congress's ruling, apparently forcing vote after vote after vote to keep him or her from recovering his powers and duties. If Trump, for example, was displaced now, he would still be president (perhaps still living in the White House?), Mike Pence would be acting president, and Trump could spend the next year trying to elect a Congress that would restore him to office. 

The bottom line is that the 25th just isn't useful for removing a president in any kind of contested situation. 

1. Good Scott Lemieux item pointing out something important to liberals: "Single payer" isn't the same thing as "universal health care" -- it's just one of a number of ways of getting there. 

2. Molly Reynolds at Brookings on the budget path ahead

3. Michael Miller at the Monkey Cage presents a new survey of experts who have concerns about U.S. democracy. Consistent with other similar efforts: Scholars who study other nations tend to be more concerned about the future of U.S. democracy than political scientists who study the United States. Good to have both perspectives, of course.

4. Greg Sargent explains the Senate's options after Michael Flynn takes the Fifth. 

5. Catherine Rampell on why the Iowa health insurance exchanges are in trouble and what that says about the Affordable Care Act -- and the Republicans' health-care bill. 

6. And if Jaime Fuller isn't the best, she'll do until someone else comes along: her Trump glossary

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    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Brooke Sample at bsample1@bloomberg.net

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