The President has one of the most important jobs in the nation, and around the world. As the representative of the United States, and protector and servant to the American people, the President is an essential person in the United States federal government. With this sort of responsibility, it is very important that there be a backup plan in case something happens.
- The Constitution
- In case of death, resignation, or removal of the President, the Constitution states that he would be succeeded by the Vice President. In 1947, an addendum was passed: The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 states that in the event of a vacancy in both the Presidency and the Vice Presidency, the following order of succession would be used: first the Speaker of the House of Representatives, then the President pro tempore of the Senate, and then the Cabinet members starting with the Secretary of State, then descending in order of the position's creation.
- 25th Amendment
- Until the 1960s there was no chain of command during Presidential disability. After President Wilson suffered a stroke in 1920, his Vice President, Thomas Marshall did not assume Wilson's responsibilities and the nation was without a leader. This was a case clearly not foreseen by the Founding Fathers, and so the Constitution was amended. The 25th amendment, passed in 1967, stated that in cases of Presidential disability, the Vice President would take office until the disability was resolved. The amendment also stated that if a Vice President became President, he could appoint a new Vice President, subject to approval by Congress.
The 25th amendment was used once in 1973 when Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President and Gerald Ford was appointed to the office. After President Nixon resigned, Ford became president of the United States and appointed Nelson Rockefeller as the Vice President. This was the only time in the history of the United States that the President was not nationally elected.