June 13, 2024

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How to Avoid a Presidential Succession Nightmare

1 min read

The ousting of Kevin McCarthy as speaker threw the House into turmoil for weeks, and the situation would have been more chaotic if it weren’t for a little-known rule adopted 20 years ago that put Rep. Patrick McHenry in the chair temporarily. That rule is inadequate, however, as it limits the speaker pro tempore to mostly ceremonial functions. The rule reflects a broader problem of poor succession planning in the U.S. government that extends to the White House. The current system for ensuring continuity in the U.S. presidency has gaping holes that could create political instability in a national emergency. Solving these problems doesn’t require a constitutional amendment; Congress can do it with new legislation.

Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, if the U.S. president and vice president both die, become incapacitated or otherwise leave office, the House speaker is next in the line of succession, followed by the Senate president pro tempore, then the cabinet secretaries, starting with the secretary of state. But a closer examination of this plan reveals lurking dangers.

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2023-10-27 15:31:00

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