Could Pelosi Become President?

( – There’s a lot of talk about a Pelosi presidency if the COVID-19 pandemic delays the election. However, answering “yes” or “no” to the reality of Nancy Pelosi becoming president is a bit trickier than one might expect.

President Trump raised the prospect of delaying the 2020 general election in a July 2020 tweet. However, that’s Congress’ call and not the president’s.

However, for the sake of argument, go ahead and assume Congress delays the election. According to the Constitution, the president and vice president’s terms expire at noon on the “20th of January.”

In that event, the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 mandates that the House of Representatives speaker is the next person to become president.

According to theories floating around the internet, that means that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would become president at noon on January 20, 2020, right?

Nope! There’s a fatal flaw to that theory.

What Really Happens

As it turns out, the entire House of Representatives is up for reelection in 2020, including Speaker Pelosi, and their terms expire at noon on the “3rd day of January.”

In that case, the next person in line to assume office is the president pro tempore of the Senate who happens to be Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). But wait, it’s not that simple either.

As it turns out, 35 members of the Senate would also see their terms of office expire on January 3, which would flip control of the Senate to the Democrats. The remaining 65 members of the Senate could elect a new president pro tempore and the next president by extension.

However, there’s one final twist. Vacancies during the House’s first term require special elections, and that takes time. The Senate vacancies procedure is the same with one notable exception, the governor in all but four states can appoint someone to fill the empty seat until an election occurs.

That means vacant seats could flip from Democrat to Republican at the whim of governors, meaning it’s impossible to predict who could end up as president.

Only one pathway exists for Pelosi to assume the office of president — that’s the event of an Electoral College tie. Fortunately, that scenario remains highly unlikely.

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