Passed by Congress July 6, 1965. Ratified February 10, 1967. The 25th Amendment changed a portion of Article II, Section 1.
SECTION. 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
SECTION. 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
SECTION. 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
SECTION. 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment was passed in order to clarify what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the President or Vice President and how the Presidency is temporarily filled if the President becomes disabled and cannot fulfill his responsibilities.
Far from being a theoretical problem, a plan of succession has frequently been necessary. On eight separate occasions, a President has died in office and several other times, the President has either resigned from or been removed from office. Similarly, on seven occasions, the Vice President has died in office and one Vice President–Spiro Agnew-resigned in the middle of his term. This has meant that for nearly 20% of U.S. history, there has been no Vice-President in office who can assume the Presidency.
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The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 brought to the forefront many long-standing questions about presidential succession. When the president died, did the vice president automatically become president, or only serve as acting president? What happened when the vice presidency was vacant? Who determined when the president was disabled and incapable of carrying out official duties? The Twenty-fifth Amendment, passed by Congress in 1965 and ratified in 1967, at long last answered these questions.
Linda R. Monk, J.D., is a constitutional scholar, journalist, and nationally award-winning author. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she twice received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, its highest honor for law-related media. Her books include The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, Ordinary Americans: U.S. History Through the Eyes of Everyday People, and The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide. For more than 25 years, Dr. Monk has written commentary for newspapers nationwide, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and Huffington Post. In addition, she has appeared on MSNBC, C-SPAN, and NPR.