Nancy Pelosi retakes the gavel as the newly elected Speaker of the House
Control of the U.S. House of Representatives isn’t the only thing that got shaken up in Washington on Thursday.
The line of succession to the presidency changed as well: Newly-elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is now in line to the office right after Vice President Mike Pence, as set out in the Presidential Succession Act.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, held that same position in the line of succession when she served as speaker during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Following Pelosi in line to the nation’s highest executive office is the president pro tempore of the Senate, who is now Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
The Senate’s president pro tempore “has customarily been the majority party Senator with the longest continuous service,” according to the Congressional Research Service.
“This is an honor for me and the state of Iowa,” Grassley said in a statement on Thursday. “I may only be three heartbeats away from the Oval Office, but my heart is and always will be in Iowa and here in the U.S. Senate.”
After those two members of Congress come the president’s cabinet, led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, according to NBC.
Next in line are — in order — the heads of the Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, according to CNN.
Congress took the speaker and president pro tempore out of the line of succession in 1886 and replaced them with cabinet heads based on when each department was started, according to a Senate website on the history of the Presidential Succession Act.
But after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death in office, Congress reinserted itself in the line of succession.
“When the 1945 death of Franklin Roosevelt propelled Vice President Truman into the presidency, Truman urged placing the speaker, as an elected representative of his district, as well as the chosen leader of the ‘elected representatives of the people,’ next in line to the vice president,” according to the Senate history page.
Details on how to replace a president are outlined in the 25th Amendment, which was ratified after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and “provides the procedures for replacing the president or vice president in the event of death, removal, resignation, or incapacitation,” according to Cornell Law School.
Interest in that amendment has spiked during Trump’s presidency — on Google at least, McClatchy reported in 2017.
The 25th Amendment includes language that says a president can be removed if his or her cabinet votes that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough brought up the possibility of Trump’s cabinet moving against him during his show “Morning Joe” on Thursday, Fox reports.
“If we had a cabinet that was filled with people with more character, so many that had character have been fired, if we had a House and a Senate that took their job seriously, there would be people going up to the White House this morning saying, ‘Mr. President, questions abound whether you were fit for this office. If this continues, we are going to ask your Cabinet to take a vote on whether you were fit for office and invoke the 25th Amendment,’” Scarborough said, according to Fox.