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GOP lawmaker spars with Buttigieg over Biden, 25th Amendment at hearing

Rep. Troy E. Nehls (R-Tex.) asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about President Biden’s “mental state,” citing Biden’s recent fall off a bicycle. (Video: The Washington Post)
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A House Transportation Committee hearing took a left turn Tuesday, as Rep. Troy E. Nehls (R-Tex.) sparred with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg over President Biden’s mental health, briefly transforming an otherwise cordial discussion of an infrastructure law into a heated political exchange.

For several hours, lawmakers and Buttigieg discussed road and rail safety, the cost of electric vehicles and rising energy prices amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, among other topics. But four hours into the hearing, after asking a question about restrictions on the airspace over Disney amusement parks, Nehls switched gears, presenting a picture of Biden speaking, with a caption mocking the president for a speech last month in which he stuttered over a word.

“We now see the mainstream media questioning President Biden’s mental state, and for good reason,” Nehls said. “Sadly, he shakes hands with ghosts and imaginary people, and he falls off bicycles,” the congressman added, referring to the president’s fall during a morning bike ride last month near his vacation home in Delaware. As the lawmaker spoke, people with him stood, holding images of Biden next to the White House Easter Bunny.

“Have you spoken to Cabinet members about implementing the 25th Amendment on President Biden?” Nehls then asked.

“First of all, I’m glad to have a president who can ride a bicycle,” Buttigieg replied. “And, I will look beyond the insulting nature of that question and make clear to you that the president of the United States …” he added, before Nehls interrupted him. Buttigieg was able to mutter “Of course not,” into the mic as Nehls repeated the question, before finishing his sentence by saying the president “… is as vigorous a colleague or boss as I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

Critics, including former president Donald Trump and Republicans supportive of him, have used Biden’s falls, trips, stutters and slips of speech to raise doubts about the fitness of the nation’s oldest president, at times seeking to present Biden’s verbal mistakes as signs of his mental deterioration. But he has long been known for verbal slips, even gaffes, and he grew up with a stutter.

A never-exercised section of the 25th Amendment lets the vice president and senior administration officials remove the president if he or she is “unable to discharge the duties of his office.” Senior Trump officials discussed invoking it in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, The Washington Post reported.

The 25th Amendment details the steps to fill the presidency in the event that they are "unable to discharge the powers and duties" of the office. (Video: Brian Monroe, Sarah Hashemi, Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Nehls assisted Capitol Police in barricading the U.S. Capitol entrance as insurrectionists tried to storm the building on Jan. 6 last year, as Congress voted to certify Biden’s election. He called the insurrection “a disgrace.” But he also voted to overturn Biden’s victory.