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The 25th Amendment is the section of the United States Constitution that codifies the Presidential line of succession. It explains to whom the presidency passes in the event that the President is unable to serve his entire term.
Day 2 Edit
On Day 2, Vice President James Prescott wanted to remove David Palmer from office, feeling that Palmer was delaying unnecessarily in striking three Middle Eastern countries that had been implicated in the terrorist attacks of the day. Under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, the Vice President and the principal officers of the executive departments may vote to remove the President from power and instate the Vice President as Acting President. Prescott thus called the Cabinet together via video conference and presented the case that Palmer's behavior had been erratic and he should be removed from office.
The vote among the members of the cabinet came down to the Secretary of State, Alex. In a difficult personal decision, he chose to vote that Palmer was unfit for duty. Prescott assumed the presidency and informed Palmer of his right to protest the decision before Congress.
During the hours before Palmer's removal was made public, Mike Novick asked Palmer to represent the country as head of state to a foreign official. Palmer reluctantly agreed to do so.
Several hours later, when it was revealed that the evidence against Palmer involved the fabricated Cyprus recording, Prescott and the cabinet agreed to reverse their earlier decision. Prescott and the members of the cabinet who voted in favor of Palmer's removal all agreed to resign their positions as compensation for their perceived betrayal; however, Palmer refused to accept their resignations. He did, however, ask for Mike Novick's resignation for his part in the incident.
Day 4 Edit
On Day 4, Air Force One was attacked by Mitch Anderson and suffered an indirect hit. Many of those on board were killed, including the President's son, Kevin. President Keeler himself survived but was incapacitated, and it was not clear if he would survive. Again following Section 4, the cabinet voted unanimously for Vice President Charles Logan to assume the presidency.
Under Section 2, a President (not merely an Acting one) may nominate a new Vice President whenever that office is vacant. The nominee is sworn in after being approved by a majority vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Although it is not shown on screen, this is presumably how Hal Gardner became the Vice President.
Day 5 Edit
On Day 5, Charles Logan was linked to terrorist activities via a genuine audio recording, and the Attorney General had him arrested on criminal charges. Logan might be removed from power under either of two clauses of the 25th Amendment. Section 1 states that if the President resigns or dies, the Vice President becomes the President. Section 4 allows the Vice President and a majority of executive officers (the Cabinet) to vote to remove the President. In that case, the Vice President becomes the Acting President, and the decision may be reversed. By the end of Day 5, Bill Buchanan informed Karen Hayes that Gardner would soon be sworn in.
Day 6 Edit
On Day 6, Reed Pollock and Bruce Carson conspired and attempted to assassinate President Wayne Palmer with a cassette player bomb. Although he survived the explosion, he suffered severe injuries and was found unconscious. Soon after, he was put into a chemically-induced coma to alleviate cranial swelling caused by the blast. Although the 25th Amendment was not actually formally evoked at the time, Secretary of Defense Ethan Kanin did insist the powers and duties of the Presidential office had, for all intents and purposes, fallen onto Vice President Noah Daniels, and the rest of the cabinet accepted him as essentially Acting President for the following several hours.
When Noah announced he intended to authorize a nuclear strike against the Middle Eastern nation of which the terrorists responsible for a nuclear detonation in Valencia, California that day were citizens, National Security Advisor Karen Hayes believed the plan was too reckless and dangerous to be put into action. As Noah was not even officially Acting President, Karen realized his nuclear strike could be stopped if Wayne were to be brought out of his coma and use his authority to cancel it. Despite his doctor's objections, Wayne was woken up, and called in an order to stand down on the nuclear strike.
It was at this point that Noah, dissatisfied with the prevention of the nuclear launch, moved to convene the cabinet and formally raise the 25th Amendment against Wayne, arguing Wayne was delusional from the wounds he sustained through the attack on his life and was thus incapable of continuing to serve as President. Ultimately, the cabinet's vote on the matter was evenly split, which would have resulted in Wayne's remaining in office. Noah resolved to extend the issue to the Supreme Court instead, based on his claim that Karen was no longer a valid member of the cabinet, as she had resigned earlier in the day and never been officially reinstated to her position. After interference by Chief of Staff Tom Lennox, however, Noah dropped the case and Wayne's position in office was secure again.
Later that night, Wayne Palmer suffered a sudden cerebral hemorrhage and collapsed. After his physician Arthur Welton confirmed he would absolutely be unable to continue serving as President after this incident, Noah Daniels ordered the cabinet to convene over the 25th Amendment yet again. Within minutes, he was confirmed into the office and officially became the Acting President of the United States.
Background information and notes Edit
The 25th Amendment was passed after the assassination of John F Kennedy to clarify the situation if the President became incapacitated for whatever reason (especially in a situation where nuclear weapons decisions were needed) - it also made clear that the Vice President became President in the event that President left office.
While the third section of the amendment has been invoked three times, under Ronald Reagan once and George W Bush twice, all for colonoscopies, the fourth amendment has never been invoked, even during the assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan in 1981.
Usage during Day 2 Edit
- The Season 2 fictional example of 25th Amendment proceedings provides for a debate as to the interpretation of the 25th Amendment. Palmer contended that the intention of the amendment was to allow the Vice President to act in the office of President should the President become disabled or incapacitated, while Prescott contended that the only relevant clause was "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," and that the cause for such inability was irrelevant. The opinion of the Vice President and other members of the cabinet was that he was unable to proceed with a difficult but necessary course of action, that of using military strikes against supposed supporters of terrorist activity, and therefore unable to fully execute the office of President, which was the basis for their action. This could serve as a basis for constitutional scholars to debate what legitimately constitutes a President being "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," and thus prevent an overthrow based on policy as was attempted here.
It should be noted that the episode misinterprets other clauses of the 25th Amendment. While legally the VP and Cabinet could rule the President unfit for any reason, the amendment requires them to submit their findings to Congress before the VP assumes presidential duties. This did not occur in the episode. Also, the suggestion that Palmer can appeal to Congress in four days is incorrect. The amendment states the incapacity exists until the president informs Congress that it does not, which Palmer clearly would do in this case. The amendment further states the VP and Cabinet have four days to renew their finding to Congress, at which point Congress would decide if the President is unfit for duty, but only with a 2/3 majority in both houses. What is interesting about the amendment is that it clearly states that should the president be declared unfit for duty by Congress, the VP shall "continue" to act as president, implying that the VP acts as president while Congress decides. As at applies to Season 2 of "24," the effect of Palmer being removed would be the same, but the procedures to get there were ignored.
The effect of telling Congress of their actions, however, may have complicated matters for the writers. In a real-life political situation, Palmer's supporters in Congress would very likely have taken the situation to the press, sparking a public outrage and rendering Prescott's actions inexpedient.
Usage during Day 6 Edit
- The Season 6 25th Amendment scenario is greatly similar to Season 2's, and raises the same points regarding interpretation of the amendment. While Wayne insisted the cabinet should only vote against him if they genuinely believed him to be medically incapable and not just if they disagreed with his policies, Noah, like Prescott before him, argued the amendment is "purposefully vague" so as to allow for the inclusion of policy as a potentially valid basis on which to judge a President's ability to "discharge the powers and duties of his office."