Presidend, Congressional leaders, & Cabinet are all killed, who leads us?

There is no provision in law to deal with the simultaneous deaths of the President, Vice-President, House Speaker, Senate President pro term, or the Cabinet Secretaries. So if terrorists managed to kill all of them at once (or in rapid succesion) what would happen? Either the House or the Senate could convene and elect a new Speaker/President pro term, but that would takes hours or possibly days. Who would be in charge until then? Who’d be the National Command Authority?

In the event of a Military crisis, the Joint Chiefs would probably operate on the assumption that the new CIC would want the nation defended, & carry on the retaliations against whoever knocked off the President et al.

According to this Wikipedia page (usual caveats), “There are no explicit provisions for what would happen if everyone on the list were dead, unable to serve, or otherwise ineligible to assume the Presidency”; what to do if Congress coundn’t meet to elect a replacement speaker or president pro tem “has caused some discussion on constitutional or legal remedies, although no formal action has been taken.”


The Speaker might be a problem, but by tradition the President pro tempore of the Senate is the oldest member of the Senate’s majority party (currently Ted Stevens). Going by inertia alone if he is killed along with the Speaker, the President, Vice President and the entire Cabinet, the most immediate thing to come to mind is to give the job to Robert Byrd, because he’s the oldest Democrat, and the death of Stevens makes him the oldest in the majority party.

It’s a stretch, but do you have anything better? :slight_smile:

How are you getting that the democrats would be in the majority? It ain’t November yet!

I agree that the JCS would attempt to keep things moving until a new NCA was in place. But it should take too long. A speaker can be elected pretty damn fast when necessary. That’s all it would take.

Note, also, that the JCS would have their asses WAY the hell out there making those defense decisions. If the new POTUS disagreed with them they could easily get hung out to dry.

Ah, I wasn’t thinking there. My fault. Anyhow, it would be the next oldest (by oldest I mean senior in terms of time served, which usually means oldest anyway) Republican (by tradition).

All of this, of course, is predicated on the deaths of the designated survivors. I cannot fathom, even hypothetically, how every single person in the line could be killed at the same time. To my knowledge they are never all in the same place at the same time, and the coordination, planning, and betrayal that would be required to kill them all would be unthinkable.

All the same, it’s an interesting little thought question.

I think we can all agree that if we get to the point where we’re scratching for someone to be the boss the JCS are not going to do a whole lot of hand-wringing about whether or not their decisions will satisfy the new President. You know what I mean?

In theory, it could happen on the night of the State of the Union Address, where all the players are in the same room. Clancy used a scenario somewhat similar to that to make Jack Ryan the President. Think he actually had Ryan about to become the VP when the attack (plane crash into the building) happened, Ryan survived, and took the Oath in the smoking rubble…

Al Haig.

There were still surviving Cabinet secretaries and Senators/Congressmen in that book. Ryan became President because immediately prior to the plane crashing into the Capitol Building he was confirmed unanimously by voice vote. Had that not happened the Presidency would have defaulted to the highest Cabinet secretary in line.

Yeah, Ryan was officially “elected” VP by the Senate, but hadn’t yet entered the chamber when the attack happened.

Ryan ends up taking the Oath in the CNN building, IIRC.

The House just elects a new Speaker, who then becomes President. We’d have to assume every single Congressman is killed also. :dubious:

Al Haig gets a bum rap. He did exactly the right thing. The President was incapacitated to an unknown degree and the VP, the Speaker and President pro tem were out of immediate contact. As 5th in line he jumped in and took responsibility. And he paid for it, which is yet anther example of why politicians try their damndest to avoid having to do so.

Oh, I agree with you. I think the JCS would be stand up guys and do what they needed to until civil authority was reconstituted and in place. But you’ve got to admit that there would be a HUGE CYA exposure out there. But I feel certain in this sort of crisis that would be a price paid willingly.

I think that whatever caused such a calamity would have the rest of us worried about things besides who is president. Congress would assemble as best they could, elect a new Speaker who would be elevated to president. In the meantime, there would be nobody.

I disagree about Al Haig. He was most definitely NOT in charge. Wherever the veep is, he is in communication with who he needs to be and is never unavailable. George Bush was in command no matter what Haig said.

Actually, White House audio tapes from that day indicate that Haig did think that the Constitution placed him after the Vice President in succession - he thought he was third, not fifth. But a relatively minor quibble; he would have been more accurate (and better off politically) had he said, “I’m in control here until the VP, Speaker or President pro tem can assume authority”, but he wasn’t completely offbase.

IIRC, it’s policy for somebody on the list to be elsewhere for precisely that reason.

No, because during the State of the Union there’s always one Cabinent Secretary hidden away somewhere safe just in case.

Actually I agree, after reading up on that day I think he did do exactly what was needed. I just couldn’t pass up the chance for a little humor.

But the Capitol could destroyed during the State of the Union and the designated survivor could have a heart attack or be murdered. But how close can Cabinet secretaries be? Could they all be in the same city along with POTUS, et al?