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The Weird Scenario That Pits President Pelosi Against Citizen Trump in 2020

November 20, 2019 in Economics

By Josh Blackman, Seth Barrett Tillman

Josh Blackman and Seth Barrett Tillman

Assume that President Donald Trump is impeached and removed from office. At that point, Mike Pence would become president. The position of vice president would remain vacant until Congress confirmed a replacement, nominated by the president.

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This shift in positions could result in a very unlikely possibility: If, prior to the confirmation of a new vice president, President Pence were to become unable to discharge the office, then Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, would assume the office of the president under the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.

Or would she? Two prominent constitutional-law professors contended in 1995 that the Succession Act now in force is unconstitutional. And a recent New York Times op-ed agreed: Legislators, such as the speaker of the House, cannot be elevated to the presidency, the thinking goes.

This theory, if correct, risks throwing the United States and the entire free world into a state of chaos. The speaker and the secretary of state (the next-in-line, nonlegislative officer) could both claim, with some legitimacy, to be president. Bush v. Gore would be tame by comparison.

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A better reading of the Constitution, however, gives Congress the power to place Nancy Pelosi second in line for the presidency. But, as we’ll get to below, that same reading has an unexpected implication: Contrary to common belief, after removing the president from office, the Senate cannot disqualify him from being elected to the White House a second time.

Our analysis starts with the succession clause in Article II of the Constitution. The Constitution specifies that the vice president serves when the presidency goes vacant. But what happens if both positions go vacant, a so-called double vacancy? The Constitution’s succession clause states: “Congress may by Law … [declare] what Officer shall then act as President.” And Congress has done just that: The Presidential Succession Act places …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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