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Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in At TMV, Law, Politics, Society, War | 6 comments

Revisiting Presidential Succession

This is a topic I have been posting on over the last few years and I thought it time to one again revisit the issue since it has still not been resolved. Specifically the concept of Presidential succession and the need to reflect the reality of the post 9/11 era

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 occupied by the senior member of the majority party in the Senate and thus is usually a relatively old person (currently it is the relatively young 73 yr old Patrick Leahy of Vermont but it is usually someone in their 80’s or 90’s)

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.

I’m told that on occasion members of Congress surf by our little site. If someone happens to see this post, I’d love to see you do something about this problem.

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  • ShannonLeee

    I personally think the House should be completely out of the line of succession. A person elected by a small population and then the majority in the House of Crazy People has no business near the White House. I am pretty comfortable with an elder person from the Senate… let it go to the majority leader and then the minority leader. These are elected people…and at least by one entire state. I dont like the idea of the Cabinet because these people are appointed.

    Another interesting option would be a rotation of governors. Every year a new state moves into the line after the VP. That way we would again get an elected person…from an entire state… and they would have executive experience.

  • JSpencer

    I don’t really have a problem with age per se, it depends on the person. There are plenty of young people in congress who I would worry about a more. I still can’t get over the possibility that if John McCain had been elected and passed away while in office Sarah Palin would have become our president. It’s mindboggling – and not in a pleasant way. As for the succession, I understand your concerns Patrick, let’s hope it doesn’t ever become an issue.

  • sheknows

    I think it is important to make sure whoever leads after the President and Vice , it is an elected official. I also agree, “the house of crazy people” as ShannonLee says has no business anywhere near the White House.
    I go for Senate as well. Age may be a problem if like you say, the individual is well advanced in years. In that event, I think there should be an election within the Senate for a candidate they feel would be suitable based on experience. These people work together for years and have a solid understanding of who would be suitable and unbiased ( as much as possible) just to avert health concerns. Kind of like the Vatican. When the white smoke comes up, they have selected a successor. 🙂

  • C’mon, people, you’re overlooking the obvious. In a system in which both parties are subservient to monied interests, we need to move the succession gambit to CEO of the largest corporate concern and/or a corporate executive selected by the Fortune 500 companies.

    This individual would follow the VP in line and would serve in perpetuity, being followed by the next similarly qualified person, with all popular voting for President and Vice President being thereafter eliminated for the duration of the Republic.

    This process should also provide an automatic pardon for any individual or individuals who bring about the succession beyond VP and could, at the option of the same corporate interests, permanently recess Congress in favor of a corporately selected national Board of Directors.

    Just an idea. 🙂

  • The_Ohioan

    Originally, 1792, it was the president pro tempore of the senate then speaker of the house after VP. Changed in 1886 to cabinet members then back in 1947 to speaker of the house then president pro tempore of the senate.

    When you consider the possible president pro tempore holders from 1969 to now, they’ve all been southern anti-civil rights Democrats, except for a couple. With climate change (not) Inouye preceding Leahy.

    Not only are the senate candidates older, they are only selected by seniority of service, not capability. In the house, even though the speaker only represents one district, he is elected by a majority of districts – but not necessarily for his capability of taking over presidential duties. In addition, lately the speaker has often been of the opposite party and people would have some qualms, I should think, about electing a president from one party and ending up with one from a different party. We’re not talking loyal opposition any more.

    The cabinet members, even if not from the president’s party, are chosen by the executive and must be approved by congress. This seems to me to be the most logical succession slate, even though it’s been the other way for all but 61 of our 200+ years.

    This is not to say some other creative means to choose a successor can’t be devised; and there could be a day when the entire cabinet is lost as well as everyone else in line.

  • sheknows

    Great Idea Elijah. I would love to see Bill Gates and Warren Buffet in the White House.
    Always liked the movie Dave, with Kevin Klein ( who didn’t) as a possibility. I Liked his hiring his accountant friend to go over the budget and find money. Personally, I believe there are many capable accountants out there that could do exactly that.

    Remember Ross Perot? He had a similar idea, to run the country like a business. If he hadn’t been an insane ego maniac he would have brilliant.

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