US presidential succession - Is there any feasible outcome that leads to the speaker being pres?

There has been lot of discussion of the 25th Amendment and Trump, recently. And some people are suggesting (e.g. Simon Schama on Twitter) that, as Pence might be as caught up in Russian shenanigans as anyone else, the presidency might go to Paul Ryan as the Speaker of the house, as next in line to succession.

I am right in thinking this is completely incorrect. No one is suggesting Pence is incapacitated in any way, just that he may have enough dirt on him to necessitate his impeachment or resignation. In that case surely another VP will be appointed, who will, in the event of Trumps removal from office, become president (as Gerald Ford did) not the speaker of the house, right?

The only circumstance the Paul Ryan becomes pres is if both Trump and Pence are incapacitated, not that they resign or removed from office, right? What if they are removed or resign simultaneously?

It doesn’t have to be exactly simultaneous, because the new VP isn’t VP until they are confirmed. So if Trump were removed and their were impeachment proceedings pending against Pence, either house of congress could delay confirming the appointment.

Hate to say it, but if you dug deep enough on 99% of the politicos in Washington, you would find dirt. May actually be a pre-requisite for holding office. It’s just selective purposeful digging that exposes some when certain powers decide his or her time has come.
Great film about this “The Distinguished Gentleman” 1992 with Eddie Murphy.

This Eddie Murphy film is a bit dated … please add an extra zero to the end of the dollar amounts stated … but otherwise the movie is still spot-on correct …

And both being “incapacitated” at once is certainly plausible: The two are often in the same location, and could very easily be killed simultaneously in some catastrophe, or close enough to simultaneously that neither would have time to name a new VP.

This is why, whenever a large number of top governmental officials are present together (such as at a State of the Union address), there’s always at least one person in the line of succession (referred to as the “designated survivor”) who’s deliberately not there, in case the Capitol gets nuked during that time or something.

When Spiro Agnew resigned the Vice Presidency in October 1973, Nixon nominated Gerald Ford to take his place. Ford was not confirmed until December, almost two full months later.

During that time, if Nixon had resigned, died, become incapacitated or whatever, the Speaker of the House (Carl Albert, a Democrat) would have become President.

Exactly the same scenario came up eight months later, when Nixon resigned and Ford became President. Ford’s successor, Nelson Rockefeller, wasn’t confirmed until December. During that period Albert was again the first in line.

I meant plausible in the course of a political crisis, like the one that is currently building, not the course of a war or assassination attempt.

As long as both are removed in some fashion before a new Vice President is nominated and confirmed, then the Speaker becomes President.

In the absence of the death of both the President and VP, then what happens is pretty much determined by the political will of the Congress (and Cabinet in the case of the 25th Amendment). For example, Pence could be impeached and removed first, then Trump impeached and any of his nominees as VP denied confirmation before he is removed. In that case, Ryan would succeed. Or there could be a more complicated scenario, in which Trump (or Pence if he succeeds) is forced to nominate someone acceptable to the Congress before resigning as part of a plea deal (or equivalent).

Who could also be the “first suspect”. :smiley:

According to the “Presidential Succession Act:”

So. . . hypothetically. . . for whatever reason, the succession falls to the Speaker. Assuming he doesn’t want to give up the post and membership, would it then devolve to the President pro tem?

No, there is no scenario that isn’t wildly imaginative.

There is a defined order of succession. After the Speaker, it goes President pro tempore of the Senate, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, etc.

I don’t know if there’s a choice in the matter. If the Speaker doesn’t want to be President, can he defer to the next in line? Could he resign the presidency and retain the Speakership? Or is he automatically no longer the Speaker, and therefore if he resigns as President, he’s out?

One suspects if both top dogs in the executive branch were in line for impeachment in a relatively short timeframe - then the house and/or senate would not be very interested in accepting a replacement nominated by an equally tainted existing or new president. Gerald Ford was unconnected to the Nixon administration when nominated. (Although cynics suggested that one reason Nixon picked him is that he would avoid impeachment if his replacement was “so stupid he couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time”. Today, we know that is not the case.

As others mentioned, even if the president nominates a VP (or Supreme Court appointment, in the case of the senate) the houses can either refuse to consider or refuse to approve. Then it would fall to the new president/ex-speaker to nominate a VP.

And of course, the bar is significantly lower for refusing to confirm a VP candidate than it is for removing the President and/or VP from office via impeachment. You’d need 67 senators to remove either from office, but only 51 to block a VP nomination. Certainly, in any situation where 67 senators hate both the President and the VP enough to remove them both, you’re going to be able to find those 51 among them.

25 years ago… a film way ahead of its time.

As I understand it, you can’t be a member of two branches of government at the same time. So if the Speaker becomes President, he can’t be Speaker anymore.

Here’s a recent documentary about the subject -

To the extent you’re asking specifically about the 25th Amendment, some clarification is in order. Under no circumstances does the 25th remove the President from office. The President remains the President even if Congress votes that he is incapacitated, and the Vice President simply assumes the powers of the office under the title of Acting President. Arguably, either the Cabinet or Congress can change its mind and vote the President back into capacity and re-assumption of his powers at any time.

Further, the 25th addresses only the President and contains no provision at all for stripping the Vice President of his powers, either when he is simply Vice President or when he assumes the powers of the Acting President. He can go batshit crazy in the Oval Office as Acting President, and yet the 25th provides no mechanism for stripping him of his powers (except to return them to the President). Even if you assume that “President” as used in the 25th also applies to the Acting President, removal of his powers still requires the concurrence of the Vice President, who at that point presumably is not going to concur in the removal of his powers. Moreover, because there is no vacancy in the offices of President and Vice President, no new Vice President could be appointed.

Adding all this up, the 25th on its own provides no mechanism for the Speaker to become President.

The Man.

The Man, the source of the quote there where I cribbed my question.

And just to be clear, I already knew about the line of succession and that the President pro tem was next. My question was specifically about if the Speaker chose not to resign (which has to happen according to the law before he/she can become President), do they automatically go to the President pro tem, or does Congress/SCOTUS tell the Speaker, “Hey, bud, you HAVE to resign. You’re the new Prez.”

For those who haven’t seen the movie, the plot is that the President and the Speaker have both been killed. The VP is in poor health, not expected to live much longer, and passes on the job, so it falls upon the President pro tem (James Earl Jones)–which is controversial, because he is. . . .

Keep an eye on Minnesota, to see if this proves to be true. Al Franken, a US senator, resigned. The MN governor appointed the Lt governor to replace him (She was sworn in 2 days ago). The state senate president, next in line for Lt Gov, has stated that she will keep both jobs. It’s all about which party has how big of a control of the MN state senate.