Line of Succession Teaching Moment

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7 Responses

  1. Howard Wasserman says:

    And note that acting secretaries remain in the statutory line. Thus, if Rice resigns, her deputy becomes acting secretary of state and thus is next in line to act as president.

  2. Mike says:


    The laws detailing the succession line specify that acting secretaries cannot be included. This makes certain that in order to be in the line you must have passed a confirmation hearing.

  3. Howard Wasserman says:


    I don’t think that is correct. Section 19(e) only requires that a cabinet official in the line of succession have gone through Senate confirmation. The # 2 or # 3 person in, say the Department of State (who would become acting secretary if Rice resigned), typically do go through Senate confirmation for their deputy positions. The common understanding is that this makes them eligible to be in the line of statutory succession.

    See here for a good analysis:

    This was written in 2003, but the statute has not been amended?

  4. dearieme says:

    Does this mean that if the two unconstitutional people were bypassed, third in line will be Hellary? Oh dear.

  5. WL says:

    The West Wing story arc where Pres. Bartlet had to step aside temporarily dealt with the issue by having the Speaker of the House resign from Congress and simultaneously taking the oath of office for President. As the Speaker acknowledged, it would have been unconstitutional for him to work for 2 different branches at the same time.

    (The more interesting question that the show went on to ask was whether an Acting President, especially from a different party, has the power to appoint his own Cabinet if the elected President is only temporarily incapacitated.)

    (And in the final few episodes, the even more interesting question is what constitutionally happens if the VP-elect dies in the interim between election and inauguration.)

    Damn I miss that show…

  6. Howard Wasserman says:

    The constitutional objection (which I do not necessarily buy, but many have argued) to the Speaker is not cured by his resigning because it is not only one of Incompatibility. The issue is that the legislative position he holds prior to resigning and becoming acting president does not make him an officer of (or under) the United States, which refers to executive branch officials. On this reading, the Speaker is no more an officer, and thus no more eligible to act as president, than an ordinary citizen. And resigning the speakership and the House seat does not cure this, because when she resigns, she does indeed *become* an ordinary citizen.

  7. ParatrooperJJ says:

    Also acting Presidents would not be sworn in.