What happens if the President becomes too sick to perform his duties?

National News

(WTAJ) — With the President showing symptoms after testing positive for COVID-19, many now want to know what happens if he becomes too sick to perform his Presidential tasks?

This is a question a lot of people have and if President Trump’s symptoms were to worsen, there is a plan in place and it’s been used several times. It’s all explained under the 25th amendment. WTAJ talked with a professor of politics at Juniata College to get some answers.

Many were in shock Friday morning waking up to the news that President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania have the coronavirus. The president is 74-years-old. According to the CDC, his age puts him at a higher risk of developing a severe COVID-19 related illness.

So what happens if he becomes incapacitated, and can’t perform his Presidential duties?

According to the 25th amendment, the President can sign a letter handing his power to Vice President Mike Pence. When the President feels he’s healthy enough to resume his duties, he’ll sign another letter.

It’s just really a matter of exchanging letters if the President feels as though they are going to be incapacitated. We have had 3 occasions before. One is when President Reagan had some cancerous polyps removed from his colon and he was under anesthesia for about 8 hours and then twice when George W. Bush had colonoscopies.

In both cases, he signed over the duties of the Presidency to Vice President Dick Cheney. In this case and he was out for about 2 hours each time.

Jack Barlow, Professor of Politics at Juniata College


If for some reason the President isn’t able to sign off on his duties, there’s a plan for that as well.

In an emergency, section 4 of the 25th amendment allows members of the cabinet and the Vice President and other officials to certify that the President is unable to perform the duties of the office. Then the VP becomes the President if they all agree with whoever asks for it.

Jack Barlow


We do know Vice President Pence tested negative for COVID-19. But if something were to happen to him, the power would then fall to the Speaker of the House.

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