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Constitutional Cliffhangers$
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Brian C. Kalt

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780300123517

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300123517.001.0001

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The Line of Succession Controversy

The Line of Succession Controversy

(p.83) 4 The Line of Succession Controversy
Constitutional Cliffhangers

Brian C. Kalt

Yale University Press

This chapter explains a notion that every American schoolchild learns: that the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate (PPT) follow the vice president in the line of succession. Fictional portrayals of presidential disasters often draw on this rule, but they fail to acknowledge that it is constitutionally problematic for the Speaker and PPT to be in the line of succession. Not all legal experts agree on this point, but most of them do, and their criticism is harsh. They call the succession law “the single most dangerous statute in the United States Code,” “intolerable,” “disastrous,” and “an accident waiting to happen.” Even if one thinks that these experts are wrong, their arguments cast a dark shadow of uncertainty over presidential succession.

Keywords:   president pro tempore, PPT, American schoolchild, Speaker of the House, vice president, succession law, presidential succession

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