Presidential Succession and the VP (13

The Constitution and Succession
• Presidential succession is the process by which
the presidency is filled if the President dies,
resigns, or is removed as a result of
• The Vice President replaces the President, if he
gives up the presidency.
• Originally the Constitution only stated that the
powers of the President would be transferred to
the Vice President.
• John Tyler became the first Vice President to
become President when President William Henry
Harrison died in office.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947
• The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 fixed
the order of succession following the Vice
• By its terms the Speaker of the House is next
in line, followed by the President Pro Tem of
the Senate who is followed by the Secretary of
State and all the Cabinet officials in the order
their cabinet positions were created by
• The most recently created cabinet position is
the last in the line of succession.
Order of Presidential Succession
Presidential Succession
1. Vice President
2. Speaker of the House
3. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
4. Secretary of State
5. Secretary of the Treasury
6. Secretary of Defense
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 Veteran's Affairs
18. Secretary of Homeland Security
Presidential Disability
• Neither the Constitution itself or Congress had any
provisions for Presidential disability.
• President Eisenhower was disabled 3 times during his
presidency in the 1950s.
• James Garfield lingered for 80 days before dying from
an assassin's bullet.
• Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke that left him
incapacitated for the remainder of his second term.
• The Twenty-Fifth Amendment in 1967 settled the issue.
• It stated that the Vice President is to become the acting
President if the President informs Congress in writing
that he cannot perform his duties or the Vice President
and a majority in the cabinet inform the Congress in
writing that the President cannot perform his duties.
Presidential Disability
• The President may then resume his powers
when he informs Congress that he is no longer
• This may be challenged by the Vice President
and a majority of the cabinet—in this case
Congress has 21 days to act on the issue.
• Ronald Reagan was incapacitated briefly due
to surgery in 1985.
The Vice Presidency
• The Constitution does not pay much attention to the office of the Vice
• It gives the Vice President two duties—Preside over the Senate and help
decide the question of presidential disability.
• John Adams, our first vice president, held the vice presidency was “the
most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his
imagination conceived.”
• The office is an important one, because the Vice President is a “heartbeat”
away from the presidency.
• Eight presidents have died in office and one (Richard Nixon) was forced to
resign as a result of Watergate.
• The presidential candidate tries to pick a vice president who will “balance
the ticket”—increase the chances of being elected due to geographic,
racial, gender, ethnic, or other characteristics.
Vice Presidents who have Succeeded to the Presidency
Reason for Succession
John Tyler
William Henry Harrison's death in 1841
Millard Filmore
Death of Zachary Taylor in 1850
Andrew Johnson
Assasination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865
Chester A. Arthur
Assasination of James A Garfield in 1881
Theodore Roosevelt Assassination of William McKinley in 1901
Calvin Coolidge
Death of Warren G. Harding in 1923
Harry S. Truman
Death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945
Lyndon Johnson
Assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963
Gerald Ford
Resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974
Vice Presidential Succession
• There have been 18 instances in which the office
of the Vice President has been vacant—9 times
by succession to the presidency, 2 times by
resignation, and 7 times by death.
• The 25th Amendment resolved the Succession
Issue—Whenever there is a vacancy in the office
of the Vice President, the President will appoint a
replacement who must be approved by a
majority vote by both houses of Congress.
• Richard Nixon in 1973 selected Gerald Ford who
replaced Spiro Agnew who had resigned.
The Vice Presidency Today
• Today’s Vice President is Joe Biden.
• Even today the President has been unwilling
to make the Vice President a true
“assistant”—only the Vice President cannot
under any circumstances be removed from
office by the President—he cannot be fired by
the President.