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Can Joe Biden be replaced as the sitting president?

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.

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.


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
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