Order of Presidential Succession
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.
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.
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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