The Constitution of the United States empowers the Congress to designate what officer shall act as President in case of the death, resignation, removal, or inability of both the President and Vice President. Recently the Eightieth Congress passed a statute under this grant of power. Although the new succession act is frequently alleged to be unconstitutional, it is similar to the first succession law enacted by the Second Congress, which contained many of the men who framed the Constitution and voted for its ratification. The law of 1792 provided that the President pro tempore of the Senate or, if the presiding officer of the Senate were not available, the Speaker of the House was to act as President until the disability of the President or Vice President was removed or a President elected. The new law reverses the order of succession placing the Speaker before the President pro tempore, and it does not contain the special election provisions of the earlier law. There, if vacancy occurred in the Presidency and Vice Presidency simultaneously, the Secretary of State was to notify the governors of the states and the machinery for the election of a President was to be brought into operation. Such a special election was to be held only if the notification were made at least two months before the first Wednesday in December of the first three years of a presidential term.
Ruth C. Silva,
THE PRESIDENTIAL SUCCESSION ACT OF I947,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol47/iss4/2