The United States presidential line of succession is the order in which officials of the United States federal government discharge the powers and duties of the office of President of the United States if the incumbent president becomes incapacitateddies, resigns, or is removed from office by impeachment by the House of Representatives and subsequent Whats order presidential succession if president leaves by the Senate.
Presidential succession is referred to multiple times in the U. The Article II succession clause authorizes Congress to provide for a line of succession beyond the vice president, which it has done on three occasions.
The current Presidential Succession Act was adopted inand last revised in The line of succession follows the order of Vice PresidentSpeaker of the House of RepresentativesPresident pro tempore of the Senateand then the eligible heads of federal executive departments who form the president's Cabinet. The Presidential Succession Act refers specifically to officers beyond the vice president acting as president rather than becoming Whats order presidential succession if president leaves when filling a vacancy.
The Cabinet currently has 15 members, of which the Secretary of State is first in line; the other Cabinet secretaries follow in the order in which their department or the department of which their department is the successor was created. Those heads of department who are constitutionally ineligible to be elected to the presidency are also disqualified from assuming the powers and duties of the presidency through succession.
Sincethe vice president has succeeded to the presidency intra-term on nine occasions, eight times due to the incumbent's death, and once due to resignation. No one lower in the line of succession has yet been called upon to act as president.
Widely considered a settled issue during the late 20th century, the terrorist attacks of September 11, demonstrated the potential for Whats order presidential succession if president leaves decapitation strike that would kill or incapacitate multiple individuals in the presidential line of succession, in addition to many members of Congress and of the federal judiciary. In the years immediately following the attacks, there were numerous wide-ranging discussions in Congress, among academics, and within the public policy community about continuity of government concerns, including the existing constitutional and statutory provisions governing presidential succession.
These discussions are ongoing. One effort, that of the Continuity of Government Commissiona nonpartisan think tankproduced three reports in, andthe second of which focused on the implicit ambiguities and limitations in the current succession act, and contained recommendations for amending the laws for succession to the presidency. The table below details the current presidential order of succession as established by the presidential succession statute as amended 3 U. The order is determined by the offices.
However, the individual in an office must still satisfy the constitutional requirements for the office in order to serve as Acting President.
In such cases, a note explains the detail.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets three qualifications for holding the presidency. To serve as president, one must: A person who meets the above qualifications, however, would still be constitutionally disqualified from holding the office of president under any of the following conditions:. The decision to build the line of succession around those two officials was made after a long and contentious debate. In addition to the president pro tempore and the speaker, both the secretary Whats order presidential succession if president leaves state and the chief justice of the Supreme Court were also suggested.
Including the secretary of state was unacceptable to most Federalistswho did not want the then secretary of state, Thomas Jeffersonwho had become the leader of the opposition Democratic-Republicansto follow the vice president in the succession, and many objected to including the chief justice due to separation of powers concerns.
The statute provided that the presidential successor would serve in an acting capacity, holding office only until a new president could be elected. The persons elected president and vice president in such a special election would have served a full four-year term beginning on March 4 of the next year; no such election ever took place. The need for increasing the number of presidential successors was abundantly clear to Congress, for twice within the span of four years it happened that there was no one in the presidential line of succession.
In SeptemberWhen Chester A. Arthur succeeded to the presidency following James A.
Garfield 's death, there was no vice President, no president pro tempore of the Senate, and no Speaker of the House of Representatives. Hendricksas the Senate and the House had not convened yet to elect new officers. Personally conveyed to Congress in Junetwo months after becoming president upon Franklin D.
Roosevelt 's death, the proposal reflected Truman's belief that the president should not have the power to appoint to office "the person who would be my immediate successor in the event of my own death or inability to act," and that the presidency should, whenever possible, "be filled by an elective officer.
The Act, which the president signed into law on July 18, has been modified several times, with changes being made as the face of the federal bureaucracy has changed over the ensuing years. Although the Presidential Succession Clause in Article II of the Constitution clearly provided for the vice president to take over the "powers and duties" of the presidency in the event of a president's removal, death, resignation, or inability, left unclear Whats order presidential succession if president leaves whether the vice president became president of the United States or simply temporarily acted as president in a case of succession.
Feerick have argued that the framers' intention was that the vice president would remain vice president while executing the powers and duties of the presidency until a new president could be elected. The hypothetical debate about whether Whats order presidential succession if president leaves office or merely the powers of the office devolve upon a vice president who succeeds to the presidency between elections became an urgent constitutional issue inwhen President William Henry Harrison died in office, only 31 days into his term.
Vice President John Tyler claimed a constitutional mandate to carry out the full powers and duties of the presidency, asserting he was the president and not merely a temporary acting presidentby taking the presidential oath of office. Many around him—including John Quincy Adams  Henry Clay  and other members of Congress,   along with Whig party leaders,  and even Tyler's own cabinet   —believed that he was only acting as president and did not have the office itself.
He was nicknamed "His Accidency" and excoriated as a usurper. Even after the precedent regarding presidential succession due to the president's death was set, the part of the Presidential Succession Clause that provided for replacing a disabled president remained unclear.
What constituted an "inability"? Who determined the existence of an inability? Did a vice president become president for the rest of the presidential term in the case of an inability; or was the vice president merely "acting as President"?
Due to this lack of clarity, later vice presidents were hesitant to assert any role in cases of presidential inability.
Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in Septemberhe and Vice President Richard Nixon developed an informal plan authorizing Nixon to assume some administrative duties during Eisenhower's recovery. Although it did not have the force of law, the plan helped to reassure the nation.