Constitutional FAQ Answer #9 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #9

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Q9. “I know the order of power in the event of the
death of the president is the V.P., then the speaker of the house. Where does
it go from here?”

A. The Constitution actually only provides for the Vice President to succeed
the President. The Constitution, in Article 2,
Section 1
and Amendments 20 and 25, basically says that aside from the VP, the line
of succession is by law. The exact order is in the U.S. Code, specifically 3 USC 19. Right now,
the order is Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate, then the
members of the Cabinet (in the order the agencies were added).

This question has only been around since the cold war. Prior to the 25th
Amendment, there was no procedure in place for replacing a vacant Vice
Presidency, and, in fact, all Vice Presidents who succeeded a dead President
served out the term without a VP; and each time a VP died, the President served
without a backup. The Framers either never thought of the need for a double
succession, or thought the odds that the VP who becomes president would then
die were pretty slim. The 1792 Succession Act did provide for the Presidency
to be taken by the President Pro Tem of the Senate, then by the Speaker of the
House. In 1886, these individuals were replaced by the cabinet secretaries, and
in 1947, the Congress placed the Speaker and President Pro Tem at the top of
the order.

The 25th put the matter to rest — with the prospect of Washington D.C. being
melted in a nuclear fire, and most of the legislative and executive branch
turning to ash in a split second, the line of succession became more

See the Line of Succession Topic Page for
even more information.

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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