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Order of Presidential Succession

The Presidential Succession Act establishes the line of succession to the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States in the event that neither a President nor Vice President is able to "discharge the powers and duties of the office". The current Presidential Succession Act was adopted in 1947 and is codified at 3 U.S.C. 19.

Congressional authority to enact such a law is twofold: Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution and Section 3 of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution.

According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the Senate president pro tempore was next in line after the vice president to succeed to the presidency, followed by the Speaker of the House.

In 1886, however, Congress changed the order of presidential succession, replacing the president pro tempore and the Speaker with the cabinet officers. Proponents of this change argued that the congressional leaders lacked executive experience, and none had served as president, while six former secretaries of state had later been elected to that office.

The Presidential Succession Act of 1947, signed by President Harry Truman, changed the order again to what it is today. The cabinet members are ordered in the line of succession according to the date their offices were established.

Prior to the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, there was no provision for filling a vacancy in the vice presidency. When a president died in office, the vice president succeeded him, and the vice presidency then remained vacant. The first vice president to take office under the new procedure was Gerald Ford, who was nominated by Nixon on Oct. 12, 1973, and confirmed by Congress the following Dec. 6.

No. Office Current Officer
1 Vice President Michael Richard Pence
2 Speaker of the House Paul Ryan
3 President pro tempore of the Senate Orrin Hatch
4 Secretary of State
5 Secretary of the Treasury
6 Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis
7 Attorney General
8 Secretary of the Interior
9 Secretary of Agriculture
10 Secretary of Commerce
11 Secretary of Labor
12 Secretary of Health and Human Services
13 Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
14 Secretary of Transportation
15 Secretary of Energy
16 Secretary of Education
17 Secretary of Veterans Affairs
18 Secretary of Homeland Security Gen. John Kelly

NOTE: An official cannot succeed to the Presidency unless that person meets the Constitutional requirements.

The president pro tempore presides over the Senate when the vice president is absent. The president pro tempore is elected by the Senate, but by tradition the position is held by the senior member of the majority party.

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