Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Thoughts on presidential succession
I had not thought about this until it was pointed out, but the death of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye brings with it a change in the President pro tempore of the Senate. That office now passes to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the senior-most Senate Democrat. At Slate, Matthew Yglesias argues against having the P/P/T third in the line of presidential succession. Yglesias primarily focuses on the fact that the P/P/T is not even a chosen or recognized party leader; in fact, the only qualification to be P/P/T is to be really old and a member of the majority party.
Ironically, Yglesias points out, Leahy also chairs the Judiciary Committee, meaning he now has the power to at least begin the process of creating a better line of succession by pulling himself out of it. (It is not clear whether Yglesias wants to move to cabinet-only succession and also remove the Speaker of the House from the succession order or whether he just wants to acknowledge the realities of Senate structure and the differences between the House and Senate).
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Placing the president pro tempore third in line makes little sense but it seems unlikely that Congress will address this defect for a variety of reasons. Incidentally, Leahy appears headed to chair Appropriations with Feinstein likely to head Judiciary.
Posted by: Joel Goldstein | Dec 19, 2012 9:12:24 AM
Agreed this is not going to happen--this mistake has been in place for most of our history and several near-misses have not changed that. There is too much institutional incentive to keep all legislators at the top of the line. And the Senate is not going to unilaterally pull its person out of line if the Speaker remains in it.
Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Dec 19, 2012 3:37:46 PM
Yes, but now Leahy appears likely to remain at Judiciary!
Posted by: Joel Goldstein | Dec 19, 2012 10:17:01 PM