We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Presidential Line of Succession?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
UnitedStatesNow is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At UnitedStatesNow, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The presidential line of succession is a list of people who are legally able to take over the position of President of the United States in the event that the president is incapacitated, killed, impeached and has to leave office, or otherwise unable to perform. The designation of a formal succession plan is designed to protect the integrity of the office of the president by ensuring that the United States will always have a leader, even in a crisis. In order for the presidential line of succession to be exhausted, 18 people would have to be disqualified, incapacitated, or killed, which would be extremely unlikely.

Most nations have some form of a line of succession, and the groundwork in the US was laid in the Constitution. The first formal law regarding the matter was passed in 1792, and another was passed in 1886. In 1947, following the death of President Roosevelt, another Presidential Succession Act was passed, and this Act governs the current succession line.

If the President dies, the Vice President is first in line for the office. After the Vice President come the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, respectively. Should all three of these individuals be disqualified or incapacitated, the presidential line of succession turns to the Presidential Cabinet, starting with the Secretary of State and working its way through the Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and finally the Secretary of Homeland Security.

There are several caveats involved in the presidential line of succession. The first is that acting officials cannot be considered in line for succession. For example, if the Secretary of Defense steps down and an acting official is appointed to fill this position, that official is not part of the line. Likewise, non-natural citizens are excluded. The Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore rank high on the list thanks to the 1947 Act of Presidential Succession, which was championed out of concern that the president could potentially appoint his or her successor if the Cabinet members are ranked first. The Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore are elected officials, giving citizens a role in their selection, and Congress has the power to recall Cabinet members if it sees fit.

To prevent a catastrophic situation in which every person in the presidential line of succession could be incapacitated, such as a terrorist attack, the officials who could succeed to the position are never allowed to be in the same place at the same time. Even at events when all would normally be present, at least one person is taken offsite to a secure location. By convention, members of the line usually do not travel together or stay in the same locations, even if they are attending the same events.

UnitedStatesNow is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a UnitedStatesNow researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
UnitedStatesNow, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

UnitedStatesNow, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.