January 7, 2021
This is another in ESPC’s ongoing civics series How Does the Process Work?
After yesterday’s coup attempt–we are committed to calling things by their true names–there have been growing discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment, bringing new articles of impeachment, or turning to Article 14, section 3 of the United States Constitution as possible remedies.
Read ESPC’s Executive Director Chris Merrill’s prescient post-election comments: We must unequivocally condemn the campaign to overturn the election.
25th Amendment The amendment allows for the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to declare a president unfit for office. The vice president then becomes acting president. The section of the amendment specifically addressing this procedure has never been invoked.
Impeachment The United States Constitution provides that the House of Representatives “shall have the sole Power of Impeachment” ( Article I, section 2 ) and that “the Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments…[but] no person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present” ( Article I, section 3 ).
In impeachment proceedings, the House of Representatives charges an official of the federal government by approving, by majority vote, articles of impeachment. A committee of representatives, called “managers,” acts as prosecutors before the Senate.
The Senate sits as a High Court of Impeachment in which senators consider evidence, hear witnesses, and vote to acquit or convict the impeached official. In the case of presidential impeachment trials, the chief justice of the United States presides. The Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate to convict, and the penalty for an impeached official upon conviction is removal from office. In some cases, the Senate has also disqualified such officials from holding public offices in the future. There is no appeal.
The president, vice president, and all civil officers of the United States are subject to impeachment.
Article 14, Section 3 No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.