Impeachment and the 25th Amendment Won’t Work, But There Is Something That Will

Mitchell Plitnick
7 min readJan 10, 2021
Photo by Turnip 1

In the wake of the attempted coup at the United States Capitol building this week, calls for impeachment or for invoking the 25th Amendment have erupted like a geyser. Speaking for the minority, I have argued that these are not realistic ambitions. But there is a way forward, one which is not getting nearly enough attention, but which stands a better than even chance of success.

Neither impeachment nor the 25th Amendment are realistic. Both ultimately depend on a 2/3 vote in the Senate. Impeachment requires that for conviction of a president and removal from office. The 25th does not have that requirement initially, but if the president challenges the claim that he or she is unable to perform the duties of their office, then both houses of Congress must vote to remove them by a 2/3 vote. It’s far from certain that even the House, with a razor-thin Democratic majority, could do that, let alone the Senate.

Bear in mind that, while the new House of Representatives has been sworn in, the new Senate only comes in with the new President and Vice President, so it is the same group that refused to remove Trump the first time he was impeached. Last time, only one Republican, Mitt Romney, voted to remove Trump. There will be more this time, but would there be twenty, which is the number Democrats will need? That is extremely unlikely.

More than that, keep in mind that Mitch McConnell is still Senate Majority Leader, and will remain so until January 20. He may or may not support Trump’s removal, but he has other priorities. He wishes to remain the leader of Senate Republicans. That is unlikely to happen if he allows a vote on Trump’s removal, a vote which will, inevitably, split the party in a way no political party in American history has ever been split. All he must do to avoid that is to delay a vote on removing Trump for a little over a week. The idea that he would not do so is as absurd as the idea of McConnell supporting Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

McConnell’s obstruction is a given and is a guarantee of failure for both impeachment and the 25th Amendment. In the case of the latter, it won’t even get to that point, because the amount of courage (not just political courage, but literal courage in the face of…

Mitchell Plitnick

Author of "Except for Palestine," with Marc Lamont Hill. President of ReThinking Foreign Policy. Policy analyst for 20 years.