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March 10, 2017

Down the Line: The United States Presidential Line of Succession, Part 1

Presidential line of succession

What happens if the president dies?

Most of us are somewhat familiar with the United States presidential line of succession. We know the Vice President becomes president if the incumbent dies, resigns, or is removed from office. After all, we’ve all seen it transpire in books, movies, and television shows. And many of us are old enough to have seen the tragedy unfold firsthand.

But what if the Vice President meets the same terrible fate?

The presidential throne cannot sit empty for long. The passing of the torch from POTUS to VP is only step one in the presidential line of succession – there are many more links on the chain, spanning all across the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Mike Pence

Of course, at the time of writing, the incumbent president is the grand negotiator himself, Donald J. Trump. Next in line is his vice president, the stark and silver Mike Pence. Staunchly conservative and faithfully Christian, Pence would bring a terrifying piety to the Oval Office not seen since the days of born-again Bush Jr.

Who comes next? Well, that’s when it gets interesting.

Paul Ryan

Following the presidential line of succession, the burden of the office passes to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Today, that person is Paul Ryan. This is fascinating, given that Ryan is no great fan of Trump or his administration.

Once a contender for the office of VP himself, Ryan is a popular face in his party. But his cold, reluctant acceptance of Trump has never approached anything resembling support. It’s hard to imagine how this Potential President would handle the reins of an administration he can hardly stand to look at.

Orrin Hatch

Next in line is Orrin Hatch, the President pro tempore of the Senate. His unlikely ascension would be a worthy capstone to his career as the longest-serving Republican Senator in history. Hatch would be the first Mormon to serve the office of President, earning a title that once seemed destined for Mitt Romney.

Next time, we’ll creep further down the presidential line of succession and look at the next two republicans (and one independent) who could one day stand at the head of the union.