With President Donald Trump struck with COVID-19, many concerned citizens are questioning whether Vice President Mike Pence will need to take office – even temporarily – if Trump is unable to continue carrying out his duties. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 established the current arrangement of succession, but who is in it anyway?
Deck: Vice President Mike Pence
Pence, 61, is a Republican and first in succession. He is best known as Trump’s vice president, a former Indiana governor and former member of the House of Representatives.
After Pence, next on the list (plus the only Democrat) is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, 80, would not automatically become a vice president if Pence took over the presidency. Instead, Pence will appoint a new vice president, which requires the approval of a majority of both houses of Congress. There has never been a vacancy for the Presidency and Vice Presidency at the same time.
And third on the list, who would become president if neither of the previous two could, is 87-year-old Senator Chuck Grassley, the current interim president of the Senate.
Further down the line
The remainder of the current line of succession (numbers 4-16) goes in order:
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, 56, Republican
- Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, 57, R
- Defense Secretary Mark Esper, 56, Republican
- Attorney General William Barr, 70, R
- Home Secretary David Barnhart, 51, R
- Agriculture Minister Sonny Purdue, 73
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, 82, R
- Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, 57, R
- Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, 53 years old
- Housing and Urban Development Minister Ben Carson, 69, Republican
- Energy Secretary Dan Brouillet, 58, R
- Education Minister Betsy DeVos, 62 years old
- Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, 58, Republican
All those in the order of succession must match the president’s constitutional qualifications, that is, be at least 35 years old, be a US citizen by birth, and have resided in the United States for at least 14 years. For example, Transportation Secretary Eileen Chow would have ranked 14th in the presidential ranking had she not been born outside the United States.
If anything happens to any member of the order of presidential succession, the people who follow them do not simply rotate in the positions ranked above them. It would be incredibly unlikely that any of the lowest ranking officials on this list would ascend to the presidency through the order of succession, regardless of TV show Moin Survivor I might tell you.