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THOUGHTS ON THE PRESIDENTIAL LINE OF SUCCESSION – PART 1


Have you ever given much thought (or for that matter, any thought) as to who is next in line to become President in the event that both the President and Vice-President die or for some other reason are unable to perform their duties? I hadn’t until the Democrats went rabid on Impeaching President Trump - not once, but twice - and realized that if they succeeded in their effort, they might have then turned their attack dogs on Vice President Pence and tried to impeach him also.


Had they been successful in their efforts, guess who was next in line after the Vice-President to become President. The Speaker of the House – Nancy Pelosi! Yep, the Lead Attack Dog herself.


More recently, after painfully watching President Biden try to complete a coherent sentence, I realized it is probably only a matter of time until Congress invokes the 25th Amendment and removes him from office. The only thing keeping that from happening is that the Vice President – Kamala Harris – is an even worse option than an incoherent Joe Biden, and neither the Democrats or the Republicans will let that happen. So, if Joe does manage to hang on until the 2024 election, expect to see someone other than Kamala Harris as his running mate, if he runs at all. But I digress.


Article II Section 1, Clause 6 of the US Constitution authorizes Congress to provide for a line of succession beyond the vice-president. Congress has done so on three different occasions – The Presidential Succession Act of 1792, The Presidential Succession Act of 1866 and The Presidential Succession Act of 1947.


The Presidential Succession Act of 1792 provided for succession to the presidency, in the event both the office of the president and the vice president were vacant, first by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and second, if need be, the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The statute provided that the presidential successor would serve in a temporary capacity as Acting President, holding office only until a new president could be elected.


The Presidential Succession Act of 1886 was prompted by Congress’ recognition that the number of presidential succors needed to be increased, since twice within the span of four years there was no one in the presidential line of succession. This act changed the line of succession to members of the president's cabinet in the order of the establishment of the various departments, and stipulated that any official discharging the powers and duties of the presidency must possess the constitutional qualifications to hold the office. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House were excluded from the new line. Also, the provision mandating a special presidential election when a double vacancy arose was eliminated.


The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 restored the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Senate to the line of succession but reversed the order from their 1792 positions. It also placed them ahead of the members of the Cabinet, who were again positioned in the order of the establishment of their department. This was done at President Harry S. Truman’s request, who became president after President Franklin D Roosevelt’s death, stated his belief that the president should not have the power to appoint to office "the person who would be my immediate successor in the event of my own death or inability to act," and that the presidency should, whenever possible, "be filled by an elective officer”.


While I whole-heartedly agree with President Truman’s belief that the office of the President should be filled by an elective officer, I disagree with the selection of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate as Presidential Successors. And I vehemently disagree with any presidential successors after the Vice-President acting as President for the remainder of the presidential term.


Following is the current list of presidential successors, in order.


1 Vice President Kamala Harris Democrat

2 Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi Democrat

3 President Pro Tempore of the Senate Patrick Leahy Democrat

4 Secretary of State Antony Blinken Democrat

5 Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen Democrat

6 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Unknown

7 Attorney General Merrick Garland Unknown

8 Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland Democrat

9 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Democrat

10 Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo Democrat

11 Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh Democrat

12 Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra Democrat

13 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge Democrat

14 Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg Democrat

--- Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm(1) Democrat

15 Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona Democrat

16 Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough Democrat

--- Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas(1) Unknown

(1) Ineligible to be President


Tune in next week for Part 2 of this blog to learn why I disagree so strongly with the current plan of succession and what changes I would propose.

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