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Analysis: U.S. Presidential Succession Processes

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Presidential succession has truly not been tested because succession to date has been restricted to filling the office of the President of the United States with the occupant of the office of Vice President, and the office of Vice President has never been vacant such that succession required invoking the Presidential Succession Act (3 U.S.C. §19).

Serious problems exist in the succession process if succession is actually required and the offices of the President and Vice President are vacant. A number of the more obvious issues are well-documented, yet these well documented issues still exist, and then there are a number of quagmires not previously identified. When, not if, the Presidential Succession Act is invoked, chaos is assured because known constitutional issues remain unresolved, which will lead to inevitable legal challenges once they actually occur, and then there are the less well-known issues.  For example, the presidential successor provision whereby Congress unconstitutionally prohibits Executive Department officers from acting as President when the House of Representatives alone has Impeached such officers, but the Senate has made no such Impeachment judgment (which is of course required under the Constitution to prohibit such officers from acting as President regarding presidential succession).

The articles in this Portal discuss various quagmires in the succession process, some of which have never been previously disclosed, and provides proofs, as well as solutions. We have the ability to avoid needless chaos in instances of presidential succession, but only if we select true leaders and decision makers that act on behalf of all Americans in an effort to resolve problems instead of waiting for the problems to occur before they are addressed. Anyone can wait until after a pending or known disaster occurs to act, but such acts are not examples of leadership.

Essays:  Presidential Succession (United States)

Identifying constitutionality of the processes and providing applicable solutions

Originally distributed for publication in late 2010, the essay Eligible Officers for Potential U.S. Presidential Succession presented two distinct presidential succession topics, and as such, the essay was revised in 2012 to form two distinct essays (Presidential Succession Statute–Constitutional and Unconstitutional, and Presidential Succession–Entitled Successors), both of which are provided below.

Presidential Succession Statute – Constitutional and Unconstitutional[icon] PDF28 March 2012†

In 1947, the Eightieth Congress modified the prior Presidential Succession Act and inserted two officers from Congress into the succession list. That action raised the question of whether or not the Statute itself, 3 U.S.C. §19, is constitutional.

The essay Presidential Succession Statute–Constitutional and Unconstitutional examines succession applicable sections of the original Articles of the Constitution, as well as 3 U.S.C. §19, and presents a set of Premises derived from the applicable sections to formulate definitive proofs that demonstrate the Statute, as written, is unconstitutional regarding its Officer Succession Impeachment Clause, but constitutional regarding inclusion of the two officers from Congress. That is not to say that the two officers from Congress included in the presidential succession list are eligible presidential successors, as the essay that follows proves.

Presidential Succession – Entitled Successors10 April 2012†   10 January 2014‡
Presidential Succession – Entitled Successors10 April 2012†   10 January 2014‡

Continuing, the essay Presidential Succession–Entitled Successors examines presidential successors by analyzing applicable sections of the Constitution. The analysis reveals the Presidential Succession Statute merely lists potential presidential successors, which means even ineligible successors may be listed within the Statute without the Statute being unconstitutional because the constitutional requirements for potential presidential successors to actually become eligible successors eliminates all ineligible successors otherwise listed in the Presidential Succession Statute.

† Original essay was Eligible Officers for Potential U.S. Presidential Succession, 01 October 2010
‡ Revised essay: typographical correction only

Abstract: Analysis of U.S. presidential succession is not a new topic, with prior authors on the subject of presidential elections and vacancies having uncovered a number of deficiencies, issues and constitutional questions–quagmires if you will; however, the number if quagmires is substantially larger than what has been presented to date. Most of the analysis is focused on whether the presidential succession statute is constitutional or not due to the inclusion of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro tempore of the Senate. The essay presents the larger number of quagmires and concludes with a strategy designed to resolve the quagmires by presenting irresistible incentives for the States to act, which ultimately will result in negative consequences for Congress, thus encouraging one or both parties to act.

‡‡ This essay was never finalized or submitted for publication because there appears to be no interest in solving known problems. Instead, our leaders and decision makers, both political and business, are generally more interested in maintaining the status quo. When a known problem reaches a critical point, only then do our leaders, and many of us, consider acting. Is that the leadership style we desire as a Nation? It certainly appears to be the leadership style we accept.