Raskin bill would create commission to examine the President’s mental fitness

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-District 8, speaks at The People's Town Hall Forum at the Civic Center in Silver Spring, Md. on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017.

by Leila Habib

Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) introduced a bill to establish a commission tasked with determining the mental and physical fitness of a president to fulfill his or her duties.

The bill, titled the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act (H.R. 1987), is based on Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. This section gives Congress the power to establish a “body” to determine the capacity of the President to serve. H.R. 1987 would establish a nonpartisan commission consisting of 11 members selected by Congress including physicians, psychiatrists, former statespeople, and a chairperson. The Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader would each select one physician and one psychiatrist, each party would select a retired statesperson, and these members would appoint a chairperson as the 11th member.

“This is a matter of fundamental national security, which is why the framers of the 25th Amendment put it in. We’ve gotta make sure that we have a president who’s able faithfully to discharge the duties of office,” Raskin said in an interview on Erin Burnett’s OutFront.

Although the bill was first introduced in April, the proposed legislation has recently gained momentum due to President Donald Trump’s tweets insulting co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of Morning Joe, calling Scarborough “psycho,” and Brzezinski “low I.Q. Crazy.”

These comments motivated Scarborough and Brzezinski to write an op-ed titled “Donald Trump is not well.”

“America’s leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president,” the op-ed reads. “We have our doubts, but we are both certain that the man is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show, ‘Morning Joe.’”

Raskin advised that the President “take a break from watching TV and read the #25thAmendment to the Constitution,” screenshotting a few of Trump’s tweets and later tweeting that Trump’s “incapacity must be seriously addressed.”

According to Raskin’s staff, the bill wasn’t inspired by a specific tweet or action; Raskin has contemplated it since the end of last year. However, the Congressman admitted in his OutFront interview that recent events have made the need more clear.

“Some of the current events have concentrated a remind on the problem, but we need to set this up as an institutional responsibility of Congress,” Raskin, a professor of constitutional law, said.

In a Facebook Live Question and Answer session, Raskin made sure to separate the proposed commission’s role from impeachment.

“Impeachment is about high crimes and misdemeanors,” Raskin clarified, likening the House to a prosecutor and the Senate as a jury in the impeachment process. “The 25th Amendment is all about presidential capacity and fitness, and [it] has nothing to do with specific high crimes that are committed against the people of the country.”

According to Raskin’s office, the feedback from constituents has been largely positive, aside from some online pushback which the staff partly attributes to people believing the bill is directed at Trump.

“It doesn’t deal just specifically with this President. It would be putting a mechanism in place for all presidents for all time to come as contemplated by the framers of the 25th Amendment,” Raskin explained in his Facebook Live video.

When Raskin first issued his press release in May, the bill had 20 cosponsors. According to congress.gov, the bill has since gained six cosponsors, and that number is expected to grow. In a reply to Trump’s video attacking CNN in a boxing ring, Joaquin Castro (D-Tx.) expressed interest in learning more about Raskin’s bill.

Raskin seems hopeful for the future of the bill. “This is not just for one president; it’s for all of the presidents,” Raskin said in his OutFront interview. “I think it’s something we can come together on in a bipartisan way.”

The proposed legislation and its progress through Congress can be found on congress.gov.