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Congressman Brad Sherman

Representing the 30th District of CALIFORNIA



Jul 15, 2003
Press Release

[Washington, D.C.] “ Today, Congressman Brad Sherman introduced a bill designed to clarify ambiguities in the line of presidential succession -- a statutory change, not a Constitutional amendment.

"Our friends and enemies around the world, as well as the investment community, should know that in the event of a catastrophe similar policies will continue throughout any four-year presidential term. The line of Presidential succession, which determines who becomes President if both the President and Vice President have died or are otherwise unable to carry out their duties, should be as solid as the concrete barriers lining the Capitol grounds," said Sherman, who serves on the House International Relations and Financial Services Committees.

Current law provides that if the Office of the Vice-President is vacant, the next in line is the Speaker of the House, and thereafter the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, followed by Cabinet Secretaries, beginning with the Secretary of State. However, the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate are not necessarily of the same political party as the President.


"The death of a President at a time when the Office of the Vice President is vacant could vest the Presidency in the opposite political party and radically change federal policy," Sherman says. "The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon illustrate the need for Congress to consider the issue of Presidential succession and ensure continuity in federal policies. We cannot afford just to put this off until a problem arises."

Shermans bill, the Presidential Succession Act of 2003, would require the President of the United States to file an official document with the Clerk of the House of Representatives designating, after the Vice President, the next person in line of succession as either the Speaker of the House or the House Minority Leader. Similarly, the President would file instructions with the Secretary of the Senate, designating the third in line as either the Senate Majority Leader or Minority Leader. (These designations can be revised should either body change power mid-session.)

The bill further ensures certainty in presidential succession by clearly providing that if someone succeeds to the presidency, that person shall continue to serve until the end of the presidential term.

Under Shermans legislation, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security would be fifth in line of succession. Thereafter, the line of succession would continue through the cabinet provided by current law.