President Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle reached an agreement at a private meeting earlier this month on conditions under which the vice president would become acting President if Bush became incapacitated, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said Friday.
Fitzwater said Bush was in "excellent health," and "there is no expectation of having to use these procedures." But he said the issue of succession was raised "to make sure all those involved in this process are aware of the procedures, and that everyone was aware of the consultations that would have to be made."
He said the President and vice president were joined by First Lady Barbara Bush, White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray and Burton Lee II, the President's physician. A representative of the Secret Service and Susan Porter Rose, Mrs. Bush's chief of staff, also attended, Fitzwater said.
The 30-minute meeting, which was kept off Bush's public schedule, was held on April 18, he said. The existence of the meeting was disclosed in a Washington Post story Friday.
The procedure for determining when a vice president should step in for an incapacitated President is addressed in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which was ratified in 1967. But there has been concern about gray areas, illustrated by Woodrow Wilson's continued service after he was incapacitated by a stroke in the final year of his presidency, and the confusion that enveloped the White House immediately after President Ronald Reagan was shot eight years ago.
Fitzwater said the meeting resulted in "no document, no guidelines, no implementation orders of any kind," and that no special agreement was reached between the President and vice president. Rather, Bush, Quayle and the others reviewed the procedures that would be followed--"who had to do what"--should Bush become incapacitated and unable to instruct Quayle to take over as acting President.
The 25th Amendment specifies that in such circumstances, the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet would declare in writing that the President is unable to carry out his duties, and the vice president would become acting President.