How the 25th Amendment actually works -- and what nobody's ever figured out

More than 50 years ago, Everett Dirksen noted the “ambiguities” in what would become the 25th Amendment. The “troublesome points” he raised related to “the mechanics of the determination of the President’s disability and the transfer of his powers and duties.”

Often lost in the discussion this year of the 25th Amendment has been those ambiguities, and the stark procedural and historical realities surrounding the law. Removing a president through the 25th Amendment requires more votes than removing a president by impeachment — and the United States has never removed a president following impeachment.

From Chester Arthur to George H.W. Bush, history repeatedly shows us that vice presidents have wanted to minimize any public perception that they are attempting take control from the president. Should any vice president actually invoke section four of the 25th Amendment, he or she would be the first — and in taking that unprecedented step, that vice president would answer for the first time one of America’s still largely unanswered questions.

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