Presidential Succession

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Order of Succession of the President 

Presidential Succession Order of the Presidency, Order of Succession of the President List, US President Succession History, Order of Succession of the Presidency Vice President Speaker of the House
Order of Succession of the Presidency

The present system of presidential succession

Our current method of presidential succession draws authority from:

  • 20th Amendment, Article II, Section 1, Clause 6
  • 25th Amendment
  • Presidential Succession Law of 1947

According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, if the President of the United States is incapacitated, dies, resigns, is for any reason unable to hold his office, or is removed from office (impeached and convicted), people in the following offices, in this order, will assume the office of the President, provided they are qualified as stated by the Constitution to assume the office of the President, which means they have to be must be at least 35 years old, must be a natural-born U.S. citizen, and have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. 

Order of Succession of the Presidency*
  • Vice President
  • Speaker of the House
  • President Pro Tempore of the Senate
  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of the Treasury
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Attorney General
  • Secretary of the Interior
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Secretary of Education
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  • Secretary of Homeland Security

*President and vice president

The 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1967, provides for procedures to fill vacancies in the Vice Presidency; it further clarifies presidential succession rules.

The 20th and 25th Amendments establish procedures and requirements for the vice president to assume the duties and powers of the president if the president is permanently, or temporarily disabled. In the event of a temporary disability, the vice president serves as president until the president recovers. The president may declare the beginning and ending of his or her own disability. But, if the president is unable to communicate, the vice president and a majority of the presidential Cabinet, or “...other body as Congress may by law provide...” may determine the president’s state of disability. Should the president’s ability to serve be disputed, Congress decides. They must, within 21 days, and by a 2/3 vote of each house, determine whether the president is able to serve or not. Until they do, the vice president acts as president. The 25th Amendment also provides a method for filling a vacated office of the vice president. The president must nominate a new vice president, who must be confirmed by a majority vote of both houses of Congress.

Sources: Feerick, John D. From Falling Hands: The Story of Presidential Succession. New York: Fordham University Press, 1965; U.S. Department of State; White House; United States Senate; National Archives

Recommended Reading: The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents--6th Edition: Includes Material through 2005 (Complete Book of U.S. Presidents) (848 pages). Description: This is the consummate guide to the political and personal lives of every U.S. president through Bill Clinton. Arranged chronologically, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents elaborates not only on the major accomplishments and events of their terms, but also on less well-known details such as personalities, careers before the presidency, Supreme Court appointments, hobbies, ethnic backgrounds, and even extramarital affairs. Continued below...

Well-organized and packed with details, the book also includes a bibliography on each executive, including books written by and about them, along with useful and entertaining appendixes on the political composition of every Congress, presidential curiosities (such as the uncanny similarities between the lives and deaths of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy), and a ranking of presidents. Whether you want to know the opponent of James Monroe in the election of 1816 or read some of Harry S. Truman's more memorable quotes, this is a most complete and thorough reference to each commander-in-chief.

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Recommended Reading: The Presidents Fact Book: A Comprehensive Handbook to the Achievements, Events, People, Triumphs, and Tragedies of Every President from George Washington to George W. Bush (Hardcover: 772 pages). Description: The Presidents Fact Book is the definitive guide to the political and personal lives of every U.S. President through George W. Bush. It is a complete chronological review of the chief executives: their major accomplishments and gaffes, their cabinets and legislation, their personalities and families, and much more. And it includes enlightening biographies of each of the first ladies, providing an intimate look at the presidents' personal lives. Continued below...

It is illustrated with 1,000 helpful photographs and illustrations throughout, and it features selections of the most significant primary documents of each administration, as well as thousands of little-known presidential facts. Whether you're interested in the uncanny similarities between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, the shortest president (James Madison), or the members of FDR's first cabinet, The Presidents Fact Book is the ideal resource--for comprehensive research or compulsive browsing.


Recommended Viewing: The History Channel Presents The Presidents (DVD: 6 Hours). Description: THE PRESIDENTS is an unprecedented eight-part survey of the personal lives and legacies of the remarkable men who have presided over the Oval Office. From George Washington to George W. Bush, THE PRESIDENTS gathers together vivid snapshots of all 43 Commanders in Chief who have guided America throughout its history--their powerful personalities, weaknesses, and major achievements or historical insignificance. Based on the book To the Best of My Ability, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winner James McPherson, THE PRESIDENTS features rare and unseen photographs and footage, unexpected insight and trivia from journalists, scholars, and politicians such as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley, Wesley Clark, Bob Dole, and former President Jimmy Carter. Continued below...

Viewed within the changing contexts of each administration, the Presidency has never seemed more compelling and human. Narrated by Edward Herrmann ("The Aviator"), this three-DVD set is a proud addition to the award-winning documentary tradition of THE HISTORY CHANNEL®. DVD Features: Feature-length Bonus Program "All The Presidents' Wives"; Timeline of U.S. Presidents; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection, and more!


Recommended Reading: The First Ladies Fact Book: The Stories of the Women of the White House from Martha Washington to Laura Bush (Hardcover: 725 pages). Description: Ladies Fact Book is the definitive guide to the lives, achievements, triumphs, and tragedies of every first lady from Martha Washington to Laura Bush. Arranged chronologically for easy reference and illustrated throughout with artwork, photographs, and documents, it is a complete overview of everything you’d ever need to know: the major impact of their lives and the legacies they left behind; their personalities and personal habits; their early lives; their family backgrounds, siblings, children, friends, and foes. Continued below...

In addition, The First Ladies Fact Book surpasses typical references, featuring selections of the most intimate correspondence of each first lady, from letters to their families to letters to their presidential husbands. Delightful surprises abound, including little-known information about the women’s hobbies, style of dress, habits of socializing, and peculiarities. The more than 700 evocative photographs include sixteen pages of color photography of first-lady fashion, making it a wonderful combination of solid reference and eye catching visual history.


Recommended Reading: Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation, by Cokie Roberts (Hardcover). Review: In Founding Mothers, Cokie Roberts paid homage to the heroic women whose patriotism and sacrifice helped create a new nation. Now the number one New York Times bestselling author and renowned political commentator—praised in USA Today as a "custodian of time-honored values"—continues the story of early America's influential women with Ladies of Liberty. In her "delightfully intimate and confiding" style (Publishers Weekly), Roberts presents a colorful blend of biographical portraits and behind-the-scenes vignettes chronicling women's public roles and private responsibilities. Continued below... 

Recounted with the insight and humor of an expert storyteller and drawing on personal correspondence, private journals, and other primary sources—many of them previously unpublished—Roberts brings to life the extraordinary accomplishments of women who laid the groundwork for a better society. Almost every quotation here is written by a woman, to a woman, or about a woman. From first ladies to freethinkers, educators to explorers, this exceptional group includes Abigail Adams, Margaret Bayard Smith, Martha Jefferson, Dolley Madison, Elizabeth Monroe, Louisa Catherine Adams, Eliza Hamilton, Theodosia Burr, Rebecca Gratz, Louisa Livingston, Rosalie Calvert, Sacajawea, and others. In a much-needed addition to the shelves of Founding Father literature, Roberts sheds new light on the generation of heroines, reformers, and visionaries who helped shape our nation, giving these ladies of liberty the recognition they so greatly deserve. About the Author: Cokie Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and a senior news analyst for National Public Radio. From 1996 to 2002, she and Sam Donaldson co-anchored the weekly ABC interview program, This Week. In addition to broadcasting, Roberts, along with her husband, Steven V. Roberts, writes a weekly column syndicated in newspapers around the country by United Media. Both are also contributing editors to USA Weekend, and together they wrote From This Day Forward, an account of their now more than forty-year marriage and other marriages in American history. The book immediately went onto the New York Times bestseller list, following a six-month run on the list by Roberts's first book on women in American history, We Are Our Mothers' Daughters. Roberts is also the author of the bestselling Founding Mothers, the companion volume to Ladies of Liberty. A mother of two and grandmother of six, she lives with her husband in Bethesda, Maryland.


Recommended Reading: Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, by Cokie Roberts. From School Library Journal: Focusing mainly on the wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of the Founding Fathers, this lively and engaging title chronicles the adventures and contributions of numerous women of the era between 1740 and 1797. Roberts includes a surprising amount of original writings, but uses modern language and spellings to enable readers to enjoy fully the wit and wisdom of these remarkable individuals. While their men were away serving as soldiers, statesmen, or ambassadors, the women's lives were fraught with difficulty and danger. Continued below...

They managed property, and raised their children and often those of deceased relatives, while trying to make their own contributions to the cause of liberty. They acted as spies, coordinated boycotts, and raised funds for the army. Through it all, they corresponded with their husbands, friends, and even like-minded women in England. Readers will enjoy seeing how many of these individuals showed their mettle when they were still in their teens. Black-and-white photographs of portraits, a small selection of recipes, and a cast of characters are included.

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