Presidential Succession Law Of 1947

A Proposal To Change Presidential Succession Law Back To Before 1947 Revision

It is clear, to anyone who really analyzes the situation, that the Presidential Succession Law of 1947 needs to be rolled back to what it was between 1886-1947.

The earlier succession law provided that the President’s cabinet members, starting with the Secretary of State, would follow the Vice President in the line of Presidential succession.

The 1947 law changed that to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate as ahead of the cabinet members.

That has been a mistake, as it has caused those two office holders often to be from the opposition party, as under Harry Truman 1947-1949; Dwight D. Eisenhower 1955-1961; Richard Nixon 1969-1974; Gerald Ford 1974-1977; Ronald Reagan 1987-1989 and also for the Speaker from 1981-1987; George H. W. Bush 1989-1993; Bill Clinton 1995-2001; George W.Bush 2001-2003 for the President Pro Tempore, and 2007-2009; and Barack Obama 2011-2017.

That is 38 years out of 70, and also six years for the Speaker and two years for the President Pro Tempore in addition, for a grand total of 46 of 70 years, two thirds of the time.

This has helped to promote stalemate and gridlock much too often, and has led to lack of continuity fear if a President had left office.

Luckily, that only happened twice in the first 27 years, and now it is 41 years since the last President left office early, a trend that is defying American history for turnover of the Presidency during a term, which happened seven times between 1841 and 1945!

The Secretaries of State have often been major figures, and since foreign policy is so crucial now, more than ever, the need for a Secretary of State to be second in line to be President, and a Secretary of the Treasury to be third in line, outweighs the idea of an often mediocre Congressman and a overly aged US Senator being next in line instead! And the importance of party loyalty and support of the President in office also is a major factor.

Presidential Succession Law Of 1886-1947 Needs To Be Renewed!

In 1947, the Republican controlled 80th Congress, in a fit of partisanship and anti FDR sentiment, changed the Presidential Succession Law of 1886, enacted during the first term of President Grover Cleveland.

That law made the succession for the Presidency beyond the Vice President to be as follows: Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, Attorney General, and then other cabinet agencies, including Interior and Agriculture.

That law made sense, as it meant that in case of tragedy hitting the President and Vice President, that members of  that President’s cabinet, people loyal to him, knowledgeable in  foreign and defense policies, and domestic policies, would be next in  line, in case of an emergency.

But the Republicans after World War II were furious that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected four times, so not only added the 22nd Amendment, limiting any future President to two elected term, or a maximum of ten years if he succeeded during a term, but also decided to make the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate second and third in line behind the Vice President.  That, of course, meant, that if anything had happened to President Harry Truman, and with no Vice President for the remainder of that term of office, that Speaker Joseph Martin, a Republican, would have succeeded him.

The idea of having the opposition party gain the Presidency during a term due to a tragedy was not based on what was good for the nation, but pure partisanship by the GOP.

But now, the extremism in the GOP, including the Tea Party Movement right wing whackos, makes the idea of John Boehner, or some other Republican gaining power of the executive branch under a Democratic administration totally reprehensible, as that would mean a dramatic turn to the far Right, although the people voted in a Democratic administration.  Also, the President pro tempore of the Senate, a position which is honorary based on seniority in the majority party in the Senate, brings the danger, not only of partisanship, but also the reality of a very old Senator, unfit to serve, being third in line for the Presidency, and at the time of Truman, second in line to be President!

That is why there is a need to repeal the 1947 law and return to the 1886 law, which makes the most sense, as the Speaker of the House, while elected, is only chosen by one Congressional district out of 435, and is therefore NOT representative of the nation, as much as a cabinet member, selected by the President but subject to Senate confirmation, is representative of the policies and ideals of the elected President!

The likelihood of this happening short term is near zero, but it is worthy of consideration for the near future!