GOP lawmaker considers requiring presidential candidates to undergo medical exam

GOP lawmaker considers requiring presidential candidates to undergo medical exam
© Greg Nash

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzChaffetz doubles down on request for FBI memos Chaffetz on leaving Congress: 'At some point, you've got to get off this crazy train' Feinstein: Comey memos 'going to be turned over' MORE (R-Utah) is working on legislation to require future presidential candidates to release the results of an independent physical exam.

The measure, which isn’t finalized, would mandate the major-party presidential candidates to undergo a physical exam by a Navy doctor and release the results to the public.

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Recent remarks from Chaffetz before The Washington Post editorial board left fellow lawmakers with the impression that the legislation would specifically include a requirement that presidential candidates undergo a mental health exam.

“If you’re going to have your hands on the nuclear codes, you should probably know what kind of mental state you’re in,” Chaffetz said.

That led House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to announce, unprompted, at a Capitol news conference that she’d eagerly sign onto Chaffetz’s bill once it’s introduced.

“I can’t wait until he introduces that legislation, to be able to join him as co-sponsor of that,” Pelosi said this month. “I think it’s a very good idea.”

In 2016, both Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonJuan Williams: Trump's budget hurts his voters Is it still possible to stop ‘Big Tech’ from killing democracy? Hillary Clinton for 2020 ‘not a good question,’ says Rahm Emanuel MORE and Republican Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMerkel spokesman: Germany will keep strengthening ties to US Trump marks Memorial Day on Twitter Former NATO envoy: ‘This seems to be the end of an era’ MORE faced questions about their health.

Democrats more recently have taken to raising questions about Trump's mental health.

Chaffetz’s office clarified this week that any insight into the candidates’ mental health would only come from the general physical examination. The results could reveal a physical condition that might affect the candidate’s mood at times, for example.

Presidential candidates are not legally required to release their medical results to the public. Candidates have released the results out of tradition and to assure voters of their good health.

President Trump, 70, released a letter from his personal doctor, a gastroenterologist, that said he “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” and offered other superlative descriptions about his health.

Trump also appeared on the “Dr. Oz Show” to offer results from a physical examination, which revealed he is overweight.

Clinton, 69, faced a media firestorm after video showed her stumbling while leaving a Sept. 11 remembrance event, causing her campaign to disclose that she had pneumonia. 

Recent presidents have also released regular updates about their health, even though there isn't a law specifically requiring it.

But a number of presidents in American history have tried to hide their health problems from the public.

President Franklin Roosevelt hid his polio condition from the public.

Grover Cleveland underwent secret surgery for oral cancer during his second term, which wasn't known publicly until nearly a quarter-century later. And Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke in 1919 that resulted in first lady Edith Wilson assuming many presidential functions in his place.

Decades later, John F. Kennedy's campaign in 1960 hid his diagnosis of Addison's disease.