Presidential and Vice Presidential Succession: Overview and Current Legislation [Updated March 25, 2003]   [open pdf - 47KB]

"Whenever the office of President of the United States becomes vacant due to "removal ... death or resignation" of the chief executive, the Constitution provides that "the Vice President shall become President." When the office of Vice President becomes vacant for any reason, the President nominates a successor, who must be confirmed by a majority vote of both houses of Congress. If both of these offices are vacant simultaneously, then, under the Succession Act of 1947, the Speaker of the House of Representatives becomes President, after resigning from the House and as Speaker. If the speakership is also vacant, then the President Pro Tempore of the Senate becomes President, after resigning from the Senate and as President Pro Tempore. If both of these offices are vacant, or if the incumbents fail to qualify for any reason, then the cabinet officers are eligible to succeed, in the order in which their departments were created...Succession-related provisions are derived from the Constitution, statutory law, and political precedents of the past two centuries. Current legislative proposals include S. 148, introduced by Senator DeWine, and H.R. 1354, introduced by Representative Tom Davis, both of which are pending before the 108th Congress. These bills would include the Secretary of Homeland Security in the line of succession, but diverge from tradition by making the secretary eighth in line of succession, following the Attorney General, rather than inserting the office at the end of the current succession list. This report traces the evolution of succession procedures and reviews contemporary practices and pending legislation." -- Summary

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, RL31761
Public Domain
Media Type:
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