Is the President required to take a 2nd Oath of Office?

Given that President Bush took the oath four years ago I kinda thought that it stuck to him into his second term (I do not recall anything in the oath suggesting it is only good for four years). Is it actually a legal requirement that a president take a new oath for every term of office or is this more just a chance to promote himself and not actually necessary?

It’s not a question that, AFAIK, anyone has ever answered – Washington began the tradition of taking the oath again on reelection, and all presidents who have served two terms (or parts thereof) have done so.

My hunch is that the logic is that the oath governs the term for which you are initially elected, sort of and unspoken: “In consequence of the trust placed in me by the American people in electing me to this high office, I do solemnly swear…” The idea would be that following a new election, you renew that promise for another four years.

“Do you solemnly swear…”

“I told you once, already!”

Naahhh, don’t see it happening. It’d ruin everyone’s good time.

Besides, it’s probably a good idea to remind a politician of all that stuff , just on general principles.

I thought I read somewhere that the government is not paying for the inauguration festivities. Question is does the government pay for a President’s first inauguration ceremony? That may be an indication that the first one is a must do and the government foots the bill and after that if you want one you (or your party or anyone besides the government) must pay for it. Just thinking out loud…I could be way wrong on those guesses.

All that said I don’t mind one way or another that the President throws this little shindig even if it is for self promotion. He won the election, he’s allowed a day in the sun and as mentioned it probably doesn’t hurt to remind him of his oath.

[sub]Woot! 5,000 posts! Do I get a cookie or something?[/sub]

I think the answer would be yes. The constitution says:

And earlier it says:

So the “office” only exists for four years at a time. The constitution says nothing about this oath applying for all time (or any amount of time), just that he must go through this ritual before he does anything in his office. The fact that he (whoever “he” might be) was the immeidataly preceeding holder of the office is immaterial . Think of this way : should not Grover Cleveland been required to take the oath on his second non-consecutive term ? After all, he did take it 8 years earlier at his first inaugaral.

Again, this all conjecture to some degree since no President (as Polycarp points out) has thought to challenge the necessity of taking the oath a second time.

On preview, the government may not be paying for much of the festivities, but its certainly paying for the heightened security , including some of it coming out of the DC goverment’s Homeland Security budget (with much controversy).

I do not know if this parallel is fair to draw but in a court of law once you take the oath before giving testimony it sticks to you for the duration of the trial. Even if you leave the stand and come back weeks later to testify some more I believe the judge reminds the person that they are still under oath. Of course, they have to retake the oath for a different court case but still…the notion that once an oath is taken for a given task it stays with you and need not be retaken.

Just playing Devil’s Advocate here. More for curiosity than I care one way or another.

I agree with Mike H that at the end of a presidential term, the president is no longer the president, so every aspect of the job has to be started anew.

There are no exact analogies because there is no other post comparable to the presidency, but perhaps the better analogy is not a court trial but confirmation by the Senate. Michael Chertoff has been confirmed by the Senate for three previous positions but still has to be confirmed again for his new post as Homeland Security Secretary.

Just to nitpick, however, no president ever at any time has to take the “oath.” He or she can “affirm” instead, as the Constitution explicitly states and as Franklin Pierce did.

I’d say yes. The Constitution defines the term of office as a limited period and the Presidential oath requires the President to abide by the Constitution. So the first oath has a built in expiration date.

The inauguration is a necessity. The festivites, first or second term, are not.

Whack-a-Mole, I think your analogy would be more like saying the President is not required to say to take the oath every day when he gets up in the morning or he’s not required to take it every time he acts as President (e.g., sign a bill). Of course he’s not required to do that … the constitution says he’s required to only do so before he executes “his office”. What is “his office”? It’s a term of four years. Simillarly, there I’m sure there are laws (although I don’t care to look them up) that say a person must first take an oath of affirmation before testifying in a given trial. Obviosuly the courts have not interpreted this to mean just because someone steps out of the witness stand and come back later that the oath is somehow now invalid. Simillarly, just because the President goes to bed at night or otherwise temporarily steps away from his duties, doesn’t mean he should no longer consider his oath binding.
Look at it this way , the oath is binding by when it’s required to be taken: before you first execute your office as President (which lasts four years; and why should it be binding longer than that? You may not even be re-elected), or before you first give testimony in a trial: when you give that testimony during the trial is immaterial.

BTW, there is nothing saying that the President (or a witness) can’t take the oath more often then he’s compelled to do so. So if the President wanted to take it every morning for some strange reason, he probably could do so. The reason they don’t is because it would undermine the value of the oath (“What? you only promise to defend the constitution for 24 hours at a time?”), and that gets to the whole point of an oath in the first place: It’s a promise . When the President takes the oath 15 minutes from now, it’s a promise that he will “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” while he discharges his duties as President for the next four years. When he first made that promise 4 years ago, it doesn’t "last " longer than 4 years, because he may not * be[\i] President for longer than 4 years. Why should he be compelled to promise to faithfully act as President forever when the Office doesn’t last forever?

On the other hand, cabinet secretaries and other persons who have to be confirmed by the Senate do not need to be reconfirmed if they stay in their offices – Secretary Rumsfeld doesn’t have to go through the process incoming Secretary Rice just did. So I don’t think it’s exactly that clear.

Again, I think that has to do with the term of their office. The statutes covering heads of the departments are not time limited (but they do serve at the discretion of the President). WHen a new administration comes in, these department heads usually resign (especially if its of a different party). It’s always made me wonder, what happens if they chose not to resign? Would the President be forced to fire them before he could make his own appointments?

Wrong analogy, I think. Chertoff left his office. The President, technically, left the office because the term came to an end. This is just as true if the incumbent wins the election as it is if he or she loses it. The cabinet officers you mention, however, never left their positions.

And I think an incoming President would certainly fire any cabinet officer who did not resign whom he or she didn’t want around. Why not? Nobody would object, and there wouldn’t be anything to object to.

Or, another variation on this would be,

“I’m telling you for the last time!”

This is a much easier question than we’re making it out to be. The 20th Amendment states:

Therefore, President Bush’s first term of office – the one he began on January 20, 2001, ended today at noon. He could not take the reins for the second term until he was sworn in to that – it’s essentially a separate office.

Cabinet secretaries are not the same thing at all, because there is no constitutional limit to their terms – they keep serving until they die or their resignation is accepted or demanded by the president. If a new president wanted to keep his predecessor’s Secretary of Defense on in the new term, he could do so without the necessity of reappointment, because the incumbent secretary’s term has no mandated endpoint.

Had President Bush been unable for whatever reason to be sworn in today at noon, then at the stroke of noon his presidency would be over and presumably the Speaker of the House would become Acting President.


I think there is some debate that the oath needs to be taken at all in order for the president to assume the office. For example if he’s stuck in traffic and can’t make the event…he’s still president at 12 noon Jan 20. Heres something from some law site:

What is the time relationship between a President’s assumption of office and his taking the oath? Apparently, the former comes first, this answer appearing to be the assumption of the language of the clause. The Second Congress assumed that President Washington took office on March 4, 1789, 101 although he did not take the oath until the following April 30.

I don’t know if a president could get around NEVER taking the oath but it looks like he can take it later…conceivably years later.

Cliffy must be a distant relative of David Rice Atchison.

However, George Washington took his first oath of office on April 30, 1789, but Congress considered his term to have started on March 4, 1789 as provided by the Constitution.

That seems like a precedent to me. but IANAL

Assuming the constitutional requirements that the term is for four years and a second oath is required because one term expires and another is about to begin, how does/should this effect the business at hand?

Specifically, if Bush nominates someone at the close of his first term to hold office in the second term, shouldn’t the nomination be invalid in the first place? Shouldn’t Bush have to actually nominate people after he takes his second oath to make the nomination valid?

All 435 members of Congress have to be sworn in to their offices every two years. All 100 senators have to be sworn in (in their classes of one-third of the membership) after they are elected to office. That’s the closest analog to the President being sworn in for a second term.

It probably should be, but that just isn’t the way it works – an example of intelligently rejecting an overly constricting formalism in the face of practical considerations. (A not entirely dissimilar thing happened when President Clinton was impeached in the waning days of the 105th Congress but the impeachment was still valid and was tried in the Senate during the 106th Congress.)


That’s wrong, mostly. The festivities are being paid for by donations from corporations & individuals, which they then deduct from their taxes as a ‘charitable’ contribution.

So the government in effect, is paying for these festivities. Because of these deductions, money to cover other government obligations has to come from the taxes of other people (or from increasing the deficit).