The 25th 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.
The 25th Amendment is passed by Congress after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. When Lyndon Johnson becomes president, the office of vice president is left vacant. Concern over this vacancy and Johnson’s health – he had a heart attack before becoming president – leads Congress to develop an emergency succession plan. Although other constitutional amendments establish a time limit for ratification by the states, the 25th Amendment has no limit.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment is ratified on Feb. 10, 1967 when Nevada becomes the 43rd state to approve it.
Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigns amid controversy over charges of tax fraud. Two months later, President Richard Nixon nominates Gerald R. Ford to succeed Agnew. At the time, Ford was the Republican minority leader in the House. This is the first time that Section 2 of the 25th Amendment is used to replace a vice president.
President Gerald Ford nominates former New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller to the office of vice president, filling the vacancy created when Ford became president. Rockefeller’s nomination is confirmed by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate on Dec. 19. As a result, for the first time, neither the president nor the vice president has been elected by the voters.
On March 30, President Ronald Reagan is shot by John Hinckley Jr. outside a hotel in Washington, D.C., and nearly dies of blood loss. In the White House, the president’s advisers discuss invoking the 25th Amendment, but, in the end, reject the idea. Upon hearing the news, Secretary of State Alexander Haig claims that he is “in charge” until Vice President George H.W. Bush flies back to Washington.
President Ronald Reagan undergoes an operation to remove cancerous tissue from his colon. Reagan sent a letter to the House and Senate indicating that Vice President George Bush would become acting president while Reagan is under anesthesia (about eight hours), but he does not expressly invoke the 25th Amendment.
Upon learning about his irregular heartbeat, President George H.W. Bush announces that Vice President Dan Quayle would be acting president if electric shock therapy was required. The treatment is never required and power is never transferred.
When President George W. Bush undergoes his third colonoscopy, he transfers power to Vice President Dick Cheney for an hour while he is sedated. This is the first formal use of the disability clause in the 25th Amendment, which was passed to clarify what happens upon the death, removal, or resignation of the president or vice president as well as how the presidency is temporarily filled if the president becomes disabled and cannot fulfill his responsibilities.