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Study Notes

Presidential Succession

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The Presidential Succession is the line of people who would take over as President or Acting President in the event of the removal from office of the current President. This may arise out of the death, resignation of impeachment of the President. In addition to this should the President become incapacitated then the succession kicks in.

The most recent change to the succession came about as a result of the Presidential Succession Act 1947, and has been amended when new cabinet offices have been created. Currently the succession has seventeen people in it.

The Succession:

1. Vice President

2. Speaker of the House of Representatives

3. President pro tempore of the Senate

4. Secretary of State

5. Secretary of the Treasury

6. Secretary of Defence

7. Attorney General

8. Secretary of the Interior*

9. Secretary of Agriculture

10. Secretary of Commerce

11. Secretary of Labor

12. Secretary of Health and Human Services

13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

14. Secretary of Transportation

15. Secretary of Energy

16. Secretary of Education

17. Secretary of Veterans Affairs

18. Secretary of Homeland Security

* The current Secretary of the Interior is not part of the succession as she was born in the UK

The current succession does mean that the position two and three are currently occupied by Republicans.

All persons in the succession must be eligible for the Presidency under the terms outlined in the US Constitution. The first person to use the succession was John Tyler in 1841. At the time there was considerable debate surrounding whether or not the succession meant that the Vice President takes over the Office of President or simply the powers of the President. Tyler swiftly put an end to this and referred to himself as President. He even went as far as not opening mail addressed to the ‘Acting President’. This issue was cleared up in the 25th Amendment.

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