View Full Version : Does anyone other than the VP become POTUS rather than Acting POTUS?
02-26-2005, 01:08 AM
The 25th Amendment to the US constitution clarfied that if the President dies, resigns, or is removed from office the Vice President becomes President rather than merely recieving the powers and duties of the office. If succession passed beyond the VP would the successor (Speaker, President pro tempore, Secretary, AG) also become President or would they only act as President?
02-26-2005, 01:55 AM
There is no constitutional amendment that addresses this; when Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency after the assasination of JFK a amendment was passed confirming that he was in fact the president, and not just an interim executive until a formal election could be convened.
Your scenario would have to come up, and an amendment would need to be ratified in order to define the proper procedure.
02-26-2005, 05:51 AM
I realize that I've weighed in on a lot of these when I could find the presidential succession statute without looking up the citation.
First of all, Article II, Section 1 (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/article02/) of the Constitution provides:
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
As you mentioned, the 25th Amendment (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment25/) specifies that the Vice President shall "become" President rather than act as President on the President's death, removal or resignation. However, prior to that Amendement, Vice Presidents had succeeded Presidents who died without being considered "acting" as any practical matter. On the other hand, since the 25th Amendment, there have been several instances where Vice Presidents have briefly been acting as President when the sitting President has been incapicated while undergoing medical procedures, but the Vice President has taken no significant Presdiential actions during those times.
Presidential succession after the Vice President is covered by 3 U.S.C. Sec 19 ("http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/ts_search.pl?title=3&sec=19). Like Article II, Section 1, it speaks in terms of the Speaker of the House, President pro tempore of the Senate, or ranking cabinet secretary "acting" as President in the event of an either permanant or temporary inability of the President to serve. However, that section specifies that the officer "shall continue to act until the expiration of the then current Presidential term" unless the Presidential inability is temporary.
Technically it would be correct to say that if the President and Vice President were both permanently unable to serve, the officer who took over the position of President until the next election would only be "acting" Presdient. However, I am sure that for all purposes (other than pure pedantry), that officer would be considered President, just as Vice Presidents who succeded to the Presidency have historically been.
Even if you're a fill-in president as it were under the terms of the 25th Amendment, Bush 41 and Gore both were when Reagan and Clinton had surgery and were under anesthesia, that person assumes the full power of the presidency.
I don't believe this is a law, but merely a custom established by the first VP to assume office on the death of the president, John Tyler, back in 1841. Henry Clay assumed that Tyler was just a Vice President acting as President, but not the President. Tyler asserted that was not the case and his position prevailed despite the fact that he faced stern opposition in Congress.
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