President Dwight Eisenhower's health problems in the mid- and late 1950's put the question of presidential succession and disability in the minds of many in Congress, particularly Senator C. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee.
A two-time presidential candidate and the Democratic Party's Vice Presidential nominee in 1956, Kefauver opened hearings before the Senate's Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments in 1958, putting forth a permanent solution rooted in the written disability agreement between Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon, but modified to quell concerns expressed by some of his colleagues.
Kefauver's initial proposal called for the Vice President and a majority of the members of a President's Cabinet to present questions of presidential disability to Congress, whereupon it would decide if the President were fit to serve. A two-thirds vote of each house would have been necessary to declare a presidential disability.
Unable to get his concept passed into law during the 86th or 87th Congresses, Kefauver's efforts would be bolstered in the 88th Congress thanks to the American Bar Association, which undertook a serious study of the issue. Ultimately, the ABA recommended not an Act of Congress, but rather a constitutional amendment which, unlike the Eisenhower-Nixon Agreement, didn't set criteria under which a President would be deemed disabled. The ABA proposal rather gave Congress a more broad, general power to declare a presidential disability; but as with the Kefauver Plan, Congress failed to act.
The inauguration of John Kennedy moved the questions of presidential succession and disability to the proverbial back burner, but it shouldn't have. While at 43 years old Kennedy was hardly seen as a candidate to become disabled in office, decades later his medical history would reveal that the 35th President wasn't in nearly the shape he let on. To his credit, Senator Kefauver pressed on.
In 1963 there finally appeared to be some movement on the issue, as Kefauver would be joined in advocating addressing the issue by New York Senator Kenneth Keating, and later by Connecticut's Thomas Dodd. But as had happened so many times before, fate would intervene to derail the effort: on August 8, 1963, Kefauver suffered a massive heart attack while on the Senate floor, dying two days later. Fortunately however, this time someone picked up the mantle.