Like two US presidents before him, Donald Trump could temporarily hand over power to his vice president should he become incapacitated, for example while undergoing a medical procedure as treatment for the coronavirus. Under Section 3 of the US Constitution's 25th Amendment, Trump could declare in writing his inability to discharge his duties. Vice President Mike Pence would become acting president, although Trump would remain in office. The president would regain his powers by declaring in writing that he is again ready to discharge them.
SECTION 3 PRECEDENTS
- On July 13, 1985, president Ronald Reagan elected to have a precancerous lesion removed after it was discovered during a colonoscopy. Vice President George HW Bush was acting president for nearly eight hours.
- On June 29, 2002, President G W Bush invoked Section 3, temporarily transferring his powers to vice president Dick Cheney before undergoing a colonoscopy. Cheney was acting president from 7:09 am to 9:24 am.
Under Section 4, the VP and a majority of either Cabinet officials or "such other body as Congress may by law provide" can inform leaders in the two houses of Congress that the president "is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office". In such a case, the VP takes over as acting president. The president resumes office after informing the same two congressional leaders "that no inability exists" unless the Cabinet officials or other body declare otherwise. Congress then must assemble within 48 hours to decide the issue. If two-thirds of the members of both chambers decide that the president is unable to discharge the duties of office, the VP remains acting president until after the next scheduled presidential election. Otherwise, the president resumes office.
What if Pence gets sick too?
Under the Presidential Succession Act - passed in 1947 - if both Trump and Pence were incapacitated, Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would step in.