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.
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