Can Joe Biden be replaced as the sitting president?


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President Biden’s incoherency and fatigue at last night’s CNN Presidential Debate has left Democratic insiders questioning whether President Biden should seek a second term in office. But a more urgent issue is the president’s ability to continue his first term in office. This guide explains the constitutional mechanism for Biden to be replaced as the sitting president.

What does the Constitution say about presidential succession?

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution spells out the presidential order of succession.

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President Joe Biden stands at his podium during the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections between himself and former president Donald Trump at CNN’s studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, June 27, 2024. (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The first three scenarios deal with the possibility of death, resignation, or illness. It is through these sections that Vice Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford each became President of the United States. The fourth and most talked about section in the 25th Amendment provides a mechanism to remove a president without their consent. 

It last became part of the national conversation in the aftermath of the January 6 riots, when some cabinet members reportedly discussed removing former President Trump from office.

TRUMP SAYS ‘BIGGEST PROBLEM’ NOT BIDEN’S AGE, ‘DECLINE,’ BUT HIS POLICIES IN FIRST APPEARANCE SINCE DEBATE

How would replacing the president work?

According to the relevant section, these steps would take place: 

  • The Vice President (in this case, Kamala Harris) and a majority of cabinet members deliver a written declaration to the president pro tempore of the Senate (Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA) and Speaker of the House (Rep. Mike Johnson, R-LA) saying that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” This would make Harris the acting president.
  • If President Biden writes a letter saying he is capable of performing his duties, then he resumes them unless Harris and the cabinet majority deliver another declaration stating the same inability. That must be sent within four days of the president’s declaration.
  • The question would then go to Congress, who would assemble within 48 hours and vote on the issue within 21 days. If that vote succeeded, Biden would be stripped of his office, and Harris would continue as acting president until Americans chose their next President in the next election. In that scenario, Harris could run for President in that same election.
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President Biden and former President Trump squared off in their high-stakes 2024 election debate rematch on Thursday and the contrast between the pair could not have been starker, a body language expert tells Fox News. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

TRUMP SAYS ‘BIGGEST PROBLEM’ NOT BIDEN’S AGE, ‘DECLINE,’ BUT HIS POLICIES IN FIRST APPEARANCE SINCE DEBATE

Are there any signs that it will be invoked?

No. There is no reporting that anyone in Biden’s inner circle or the White House is considering such a move. 

Elsewhere, voices across the political spectrum have raised the possibility that Biden is not capable of remaining in office.

President Biden Holds Post Debate Rally In North Carolina

Biden speaks at a post-debate campaign rally on June 28, 2024 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Last night President Biden and Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump faced off in the first presidential debate of the 2024 campaign.  (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

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That includes figures ranging from Johnson to comedian Jon Stewart.

What if President Biden dies or resigns?

As above, the 25th amendment also deals with succession in the event of death or resignation. In both cases, Vice President Harris would become President of the United States.



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