An Article I wrote for Newsvine, you can also read it here.

Say that Vice President Cheney resigns due to his heart troubles, or say the unlikely happens and he is impeached by Congress, many think that the Speaker of the House would replace him, and they would be wrong, the President chooses the replacement.

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution clarifies some rather ambiguous translations that have been raised in the past, because through history the order of succession has been juggled a few times, coming close to what we have after the final legislative juggling in the order of succession in 1947, then the 25th Amendment finalized what we have today in 1965.

So when do the Speaker of the House and the President and the President pro tempore of the Senate come into play? Well, lets lay it out:

  • If the Presidency is vacated the Vice President becomes President and appoints a new Vice President who is voted upon by congress.
  • If the Vice Presidency is lost then the President names a replacement who is voted upon by congress.
  • If both the Presidency and Vice Presidency are vacated at the same time, the Speaker becomes president and appoints a Vice President who is voted upon by congress.
  • If the Presidency, Vice Presidency and Speakership are vacant at the same time, then the President pro tempore of the Senate becomes President and appoints a Vice President who is voted upon by congress.
  • The list keeps going downward through the order of succession if all posts in succession above them are simultaneously vacant.

By the way, there has been more than one occasion where we had no Vice President because Presidents never bothered to, or refused to appoint one, that would technically make the Speaker the Acting Vice President, while still performing the duties only of Speaker.

This rather short article was actually inspired by an argument over a Tom Clancy book titled Executive Orders when most of the government was lost when a fuel-laden 747 crashed into a joint session to appoint a new Vice President. It was written before 9-11 if anyone was curious.

© 2007, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.