Before we even begin, let’s get straight what “in line” means. It’s simply impossible for any given president to be “in line” for an office he already holds. That’s just basic English and common sense.
So with that out of the way… on with fun.
Unless you’re living under a rock or irreversibly stupid, just about everyone knows that the Veep is first in line. The vast majority of political junkies are already aware the Speaker of the House (Rep. Paul Ryan R-WI) is the second in line for the presidency.
Now here is where things get dicey. Who’s number three?
I’ll wager money that a surprising number of you are aware that after Pence and Ryan, it’s the president pro tempore of the US Senate.
But who exactly is the president pro tem? Much to my embarrassment, I always assumed it was the Senate Majority Leader. In this case, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Oh no, no, no. According to the official homepage of the US Senate;
A constitutionally recognized officer of the Senate who presides over the chamber in the absence of the vice president. The president pro tempore (or, “president for a time”) is elected by the Senate and is, by custom, the senator of the majority party with the longest record of continuous service. This index page provides links to information on the origins and authority of the office and the pro tempore’s role in presidential succession.
So at least until he retires in January 2019, it’s Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
But in a bit Founding Father frivolity, we don’t necessarily have to go with the longest serving senator of the majority party.
Anyone else notice the words “by custom”? Technically, the Senate could elect any sitting senator to the presidency.
If you’re curious of the entire list of the order of presidential succession, here you go;
- Vice President
- Speaker of the House of Representatives
- President Pro Tempore of the Senate
- Secretary of State
- Secretary of the Treasury
- Secretary of Defense
- Attorney General
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary of Transportation
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Education
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Secretary of Homeland Security