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White House Statement and Text of Agreement Between the President and the Vice President on Procedures in the Event of Presidential Inability.

August 10, 1961

THE PRESIDENT and the Vice President have agreed to adhere to procedures identical to those which former President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon adopted with regard to any questions of Presidential inability. Those procedures are as follows:

( 1 ) In the event of inability the President would--if possible--so inform the Vice President, and the Vice President would serve as Acting President, exercising the powers and duties of the Office until the inability had ended.

(2) In the event of an inability which would prevent the President from so communicating with the Vice President, the Vice President, after such consultation as seems to him appropriate under the circumstances, would decide upon the devolution of the powers and duties of the Office and would serve as Acting President until the inability had ended.

(3) The President, in either event, would determine when the inability had ended and at that time would resume the full exercise of the powers and duties of the Office.

After consultation with the Attorney General, it is the understanding of the President and the Vice President that these procedures reflect the correct interpretation to be given to Article II, Section 1 clause 5 of the Constitution. This was also the view of the prior Administration and is supported by the great majority of constitutional scholars. The relevant constitutional provision is:

"In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected."

Under this provision, upon a proper determination of Presidential inability, the Vice President succeeds temporarily to the powers and duties of the Presidency until such time as the President is enabled to act again. Unlike the case of removal, death, or resignation, the Vice President does not permanently become President.

Under the arrangement quoted above, the Vice President agrees to serve as Acting President "after such consultation as seems to him appropriate under the circumstances." There is no provision of the Constitution or of law prescribing any procedure of consultation, but the President and Vice President felt, as a matter of wisdom and sound judgment, that the Vice President would wish to have the support of the Cabinet as to the necessity and desirability of discharging the powers and duties of the Presidency as Acting President as well as legal advice from the Attorney General that the circumstances would, under the Constitution, justify his doing so. The understanding between the President and the Vice President authorizes the Vice President to consult with these officials with a free mind that this is what the President intended in the event of a crisis.

Prior to the Eisenhower-Nixon arrangement, there were no similar understandings of a public nature. For this reason, prior Vice Presidents have hesitated to take any initiative during the period when the President was disabled. Obviously, this is a risk which cannot be taken in these times, and it is for that reason that President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson have agreed to follow the precedent established by the past Administration.

Note: The Attorney General's opinion upon the construction to be given to the Presidential inability clause of the Constitution was submitted to the President in a letter dated August 2 (27 pp., Government Printing Office, 1961).

John F. Kennedy, White House Statement and Text of Agreement Between the President and the Vice President on Procedures in the Event of Presidential Inability. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235372

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