On 12 April 2020 I tweeted, "So I think someone in a #BettingMarket who knows a lot about Cabinet members should be sellings options on the #25thAmendment. Like, is it even REMOTELY likely? NEVER going to happen? How do the odds fluctuate?" And then, because nobody follows me on Twitter, nothing happened. And I don't know anything about which Cabinet members are sycophants and which aren't, so I didn't do anything.
On 6 January 2021 President Trump incited a riot, and now I really wish I knew more about which Cabinet members might be in favor of the 25th Amendment.
Interestingly, back in the 90s I came home one evening and my mother was watching some made-for-TV movie about the president and vice-president both trying to use the 25th Amendment, so I've known about this possibility since then. Short version: if the vice-president and majority of the Cabinet tell the Senate that the president is unfit, the vice-president becomes something called "acting president." Here's the actual amendment.
So who counts as "the principle officers of the executive departments"? The White House website lists 23 people as holding Cabinet-level positions, but differentiates the heads of the 15 executive departments--these are the positions that are in the formal line of succession. Wikipedia says these are the folks:
- Vice-President Mike Pence
- Sec. of State Mike Pompeo
- Sec. of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin
- Acting Sec. of Defense Christopher Miller
- Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen
- Sec. of the Interior David Bernhardt
- Sec. of Agriculture Sonny Purdue
- Sec. of Commerce Wilbur Ross
- Sec. of Labor Eugene Scalia
- Sec. of Health and Human Services Alex Azar
- Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson
- Sec. of Transportation Elaine Chao
- Sec. of Energy Dan Brouillette
- Sec. of Education Betsy DeVos
- Sec. of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie
- Acting Sec. of Homeland Security Chad Wolf
Before we go on, can we acknowledge the Sec. of Homeland Security should ALWAYS be someone named "Wolf"? Who are you sending after the terrorists, Mr. President? "Get me The Wolf."
PENCE: I think his behavior yesterday shows he's on-board with this. He presided over the certification of his electoral defeat, and sources say he deployed the National Guard. I say he's a YES.
POMPEO: A guy I know who knows more about the State Dept. than I do has categorized Pompeo as a "snake." NO.
MNUCHIN: People like to make fun of that picture of him and his wife inspecting new sheets of money, but Mnuchin's support for economic stimulus to the citizens instead of big businesses makes me think the guy's all right. YES.
MILLER: Do "acting" secretaries get to vote? Probably; they're the "principle officers" for their departments. Biden's transition team has accused Miller of obstructing. I say NO.
ROSEN: William Barr recommended Rosen to Trump, and Barr didn't like what happened yesterday. YES.
BERNHARDT: He's had several different positions at Interior under two different presidents; does that mean he's "deep state" enough to vote against Trump? YES, I guess.
PURDUE: Former governor who isn't looking to use Agriculture as a springboard to anything (where does Agriculture springboard to? Interior?). YES.
ROSS: New-York businessman who's been in the Cabinet the whole term. NO.
SCALIA: Antonin Scalia's son just CAN'T be a Trumper, can he? I hope not. YES.
AZAR: Anyone associated with HHS, CDC, or FDA right now is suspect. NO.
CARSON: In 2012 Carson seemed like a rational dude. I think Pence could talk some sense into him. YES.
CHAO: She just resigned, but it's not effective until Monday. She's the wife of the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and I think she quit because the two of them would be in an impossible position no matter HOW she voted in a 25th-Amendment situation. Currently the Deputy Secretary of Transportation is a guy named Steve Bradbury who developed legal justification for "enhanced" interogation techniques. NO.
BROUILLETTE: Definitely the Cabinet member with the longest last name. A dad of nine homeschooled kids should probably do the right thing. YES.
DeVOS: She also resigned today. I can't tell if it was effective immediately or not. Her deputy is a guy named Mick Zais, who was a general in the Army and is named after the damned dirty ape who wouldn't keep his hands off Charlton Heston. YES, because Army generals don't appreciate Trump's shenanigans?
WILKIE: Confederate apologist? NO.
WOLF: If we can't rely on The Wolf, who CAN we rely on? But seriously, he supports separating immigrant children from their families, and DHS personnel accompanied Trump on his walk-to-church photo op this summer. NO.
So there you have it. My totally-scientific-in-every-way analysis says that a 25th Amendment vote in the Cabinet would pass, eight to seven.
YES: Mnuchin, Rosen, Bernhardt, Purdue, Scalia, Carson, Brouillette, Zais
NO: Pompeo, Miller, Ross, Azar, Bradbury, Wilkie, Wolf
That's a pretty slim margin for something as monumental as this. So, short of an expedited impeachment, I do not think we're going to end up with a two-week Mike Pence interregnum.