Presidential Succession

The Presidential Succession List
This article provides details of the Presidential Succession List together with the aim of the list, the order of succession and the definitions of the roles of the Vice President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate Pro Tempore and the Presidential Cabinet members.

Why is the Presidential Succession List important?
The Presidential Succession List is important because it details the procedure to replace a President in the event of death or some other form of removal. The list ensures an uninterrupted succession line to the US presidency and the leadership of the nation. In US history nine American Presidents have not finished their terms in office. William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding and Franklin D. Roosevelt died from natural causes.  Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy were all killed whilst in office and Richard Nixon resigned. In each of these cases the Vice President became US President.

US Presidents Index

Aim of the Presidential Succession List
The aim of the Presidential Succession list is to provide for an uninterrupted succession line to the US presidency. The Presidential Succession list defines the chain of succession and ensures that the duties and powers of the presidency are continuous. The Presidential Succession defines the order of succession if neither the President, nor the Vice President, is able to discharge their functions.

Presidential Succession List: The Order of Succession
The Presidential Succession List, that is detailed below, is ordered according to the date the offices were established.

Presidential Succession List: The Vice President
Definition: The Vice President is a governmental officer who is empowered to serve as a deputy to the president and assume the president's duties under conditions such as absence, illness, or death. The Vice President of the United States is the second highest public office created by the US Constitution and is the first person in the presidential line of succession. The Vice President is also a member of the Presidential Cabinet.

Presidential Succession List: Speaker of the House of Representatives
Definition: The Speaker of the House is elected by the whole of the House of Representatives, as the leader of the House. The office of the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives was established in 1789 by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Presidential Succession List: President of the Senate Pro Tempore
Definition: The President of the Senate Pro Tempore is a senator who presides over the proceedings of the Senate when the president is absent. The office of President Pro Tempore was created by Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution on March 4, 1789. "The Senate shall choose their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States."

Presidential Succession List: The Cabinet Members
Definition: The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments of the US Government. 
The Attorney General and the 14 Cabinet members from the executive departments are nominated by the President. The Presidential Cabinet Members have to be approved by the Senate by a majority (51 votes). The Cabinet members of the US Government are ranked in order according to the United States presidential line of succession:

US Government: Presidential Succession List

President of the United States

Vice-President of the United States

Speaker of the House of Representatives

President of the Senate Pro Tempore

The cabinet members are ordered in the line of succession according to the date their offices were established

Presidential Succession List - Cabinet Members - Date Created - Definition of Cabinet Department

Secretary of State - 1789 - Foreign affairs

Secretary of the Treasury - 1789 - Finances, tax and printing money

Secretary of War (Renamed Defense in 1947) - 1789 - Military forces

Attorney General - 1789 - Legal

Secretary of the Interior - 1849 - Land, natural resources and territorial matters

Secretary of Agriculture - 1889 - Agricultural economy and the farmers

Secretary of Commerce - 1913 - Foreign and domestic trade

Secretary of Labor - 1913 - Working conditions

Secretary of Health and Human Services - 1953 - Health, safety and low income families

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development - 1966 - Developing and improving communities

Secretary of Transportation - 1966 - National transportation programs

Secretary of Energy - 1977 - Energy systems

Secretary of Education - 1979 - Educational needs

Secretary of Veterans Affairs - 1989 - Veterans and their families

Secretary of Homeland Security - 2002 - Prevention of terrorist attacks

Presidential Succession - The Constitution
There have been three Acts (Laws) relating to the subject: Presidential Succession Act of 1792, 1886 and 1947. The Presidential line of succession is referred to in two parts of the US Constitution: in Article 2, Section 1, and the 25th Amendment.

Presidential Succession Act of 1792
The Presidential Succession Act of 1792 clarified what should be done upon the death of both the President and the Vice President. The Presidential Succession Act of 1792 provided that after the Vice president, the next officials in line would be the President Pro Tempore (presiding officer) of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Presidential Succession Act of 1886
The Presidential Succession Act of 1886 altered presidential succession. The Presidential Succession Act of 1886 replaced the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House with the members of the Cabinet. The order of succession was determined by the order in which each cabinet department had been created. Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1886 the Secretary of State being first in line after the Vice President.

Presidential Succession Act of 1947
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 again altered presidential succession. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 restored the Congressional officers (the President Pro Tempore and the Speaker) to ranks of succession directly after the Vice President. However, their order of succession detailed in the 1792 Act was switched. The Speaker of the House was placed first and the President Pro Tempore was placed second. The Cabinet officers then followed in the line of succession, in the order in which their respective departments were created.

Presidential Succession: The 25th Amendment
The Presidential Succession is also provided for in the 25th Amendment. The 25th Amendment provides that in the case of death, resignation or removal from office of the President, the Vice President becomes President. It then instructs the new President to nominate a new Vice President, who is then voted on by Congress. The 25th Amendment also allows a President who is temporarily unable to perform his duties to transfer presidential power to the Vice President, who then becomes Acting President.

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