The Problem With Presidential Succession
The recent shooting in Virginia have reminded us that we live in a world that is not always safe. Not only do we live in the post 9/11 era of global terror but we also have these incidents of a single deranged person.
I have written over the years about the problems with Presidential succession but the problem remains and still needs to be resolved.
Under the terms of the 1947 act if there is no President or Vice President the office next passes to the Speaker of the House, then the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and finally through the Cabinet in order of the date of creation of the Department.
Now to begin with I have to take some exception with including the members of Congress in the line. I understand that there was some logic in including elected officials rather than appointed ones, but the Speaker is only elected by the voters of one Congressional District out of 435.
Also I see the Cabinet members as perhaps better suited to serve as President since they are executive officers rather than legislative officials. In addition they often reflect the views of the President more closely and since the voters selected him to lead, his or her views should prevail.
But I am realistic to the idea that if Congress is involved that they are going to put their stamp on things and can understand people wanting someone selected by voters serving.
But the next problem is not one I think we can continue to ignore. After the Speaker of the House the next person to serve is the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. This post is currently held by 83 year old Orrin Hatch of Utah and if the Democrats were in charge the post would be occupied by 77 year old Patrick Leahy of Vermont
I have nothing against the elderly and know many senior citizens who have done some truly great things. But if we are dealing with a major crisis that resulted in the death of the President, the Vice President and the Speaker of the House I am not sure we would want someone in their 80’s or 90’s to take over.
Obviously when this law was passed it was assumed that it would be very unlikely for even the Speaker to serve, but today that is no longer a reality. We need to have someone younger and ready to serve. I would personally prefer to remove any members of Congress from the line, but if we need to have a Senator I would prefer to see someone like the Majority Leader serve.
Or failing that we need to see the Senate change their rules and choose someone else for the post of President Pro Tempore. Currently it goes to the senior member of the majority party, but perhaps they could recognize that it a possible successor and choose someone more appropriate.
When Hubert Humphrey rejoined the Senate they created for him the post of President Pro Tempore Emeritus, an honorary position. They could revive this post for the senior member of the majority party and then select someone more appropriate for the PPT post.
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