Presidential List of Succession
- Presidential succession is dictated by law.The White House image by dwight9592 from Fotolia.com
According to the United States Constitution, if the President cannot serve, the Vice President shall become President. Originally, the Constitution stated that if neither the President or Vice President could serve, Congress should declare a law directing to whom the office should pass. In 1792, Congress established the first Presidential Succession Act. It remained controversial and heavily debated until it finally changed in 1886. Currently, title 3 USC 19 of the U.S. Code directs the order of succession: established as part of the most recent Presidential Succession Act, signed on July 18, 1947 by Harry Truman.
First in Sucession - Vice President
- The President chooses the Vice President as a running mate before election; the Vice President holds only two formal duties by the Constitution. He must preside over the Senate and to help decide the question of presidential disability if the need arises. Despite the seeming unimportance of the office, eight presidents have died in office and one--Richard Nixon--was forced to resign, highlighting the importance of the position of Vice President.
Second in Sucession - Speaker of the House of Representatives
- The Speaker of the House is the most important and powerful member of the House of Representatives. A vote of House members determines the Speaker at the beginning of each of House's two-year terms. The Speaker of the House acts as "both the elected presiding officer of the House and the acknowledged leader of its majority party," according to Margurder's American Government.
Third in Sucession - President Pro Tempore of the Senate
- The Vice President serves as the president of the Senate, as mandated by the Constitution. The presiding officer of the Senate is known as the president pro tempore. Senate members elect him from leading members of the majority party.
Fourth in Sucession - Secretary of State
- The Secretary of State acts as the head of the State Department and main adviser to the President on foreign affairs. The President chooses the Secretary of State, though the Senate must confirm the choice. The Department of State was the first of the now 14 executive departments created by Congress, making the Secretary of State first of all the members of the President's cabinet.
Fifth in Sucession - Secretary of the Treasury
- The department of the Treasury first appeared in 1789, along with the departments of State and War, making them the first cabinets established by the first Congress. The Treasury Department acts as the country's leading financial agency, headed by the Secretary of the Treasury.
Sixth through Eighteenth in Succession
- If the Secretary of the Treasury cannot serve as President, the law states that the position passes, in order, to the following people: the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Labor, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Secretary of Transportation, the Secretary of Energy, the Secretary of Education, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and finally the Secretary of Homeland Security. The law does not specify any further succession.