Moving Up the Line of Succession

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Cobb posted a pretty weird Sarah Palin cartoon last week. One of the characters assumes that if McCain were to die as president and Palin were to take his place, everyone below her in the line of succession would move up a spot. The character then suggests that perhaps it wouldn't be too bad for Nancy Pelosi to be VP.

It's interesting to think about what would happen if it really worked that way. If President Bush died now, Robert Byrd would have to be demoted to the House of Representatives, although I guess he'd at least be Speaker. But he'd be representing a district in California. Condi Rice would represent WV in the Senate, and the balance of power would flip back to Republican control. Henry Paulsen would be Secretary of State, and Robert Gates would be Secretary of the Treasury. Mukasey would become Defense. Perhaps even more ludicrously, Margaret Spellings would take over Energy, and Chertoff would be demoted to Veteran's Affairs. President Cheney would then be able to select a new Secretary of Homeland Security, I suppose, but if he could do that why couldn't he just fill the VP slot the way past presidents have done when they succeed to the presidency and avoid the whole shift?

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Perhaps even more bizarrely, this BBC article actually predicts that Nancy Pelosi may well be the next President!

If you count acting presidents, yes. But lots of vice-presidents have been acting president that never get counted as ever being the president. I believe Dan Quayle, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney have all been acting president for at least a day each. No one ever counts them as having been president.

I'm not sure it works that way, though. The current president's term is supposed to be over when the next one gets sworn in. I think he continues on until he's replaced, even if for emergency reasons that has to be a different inauguration day. I'm not 100% sure of that, but I think that's how it works.

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