Fact check: If the vice president becomes president, House speaker doesn't become new VP

The claim: If Kamala Harris assumes the role of president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become vice president

A viral post claims that if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the election but cannot serve his full term, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris would assume the role of president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become vice president.

“You people realize if Biden wins and can’t finish his term that Harris becomes Pres and Pelosi VP,” the post reads. “Let that sink in.”

The post has been shared over 116,000 times on Facebook since Aug. 12. The user behind the post did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Fact check: Vice President Mike Pence ‘can’t wait’ to be on debate stage with Kamala Harris

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks on as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks on as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, left, looks on as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Del., Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

What does the Constitution say about succession? 

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution — passed by Congress in 1965 and ratified in 1967 — clarifies the rules of succession to the presidency.

It’s true that if the president cannot serve his or her full term, the vice president assumes the role of president.

“In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President,” Section 1 of the 25th Amendment reads.

But it’s not true that the speaker of the House — or any other predetermined individual — automatically becomes vice president. Upon becoming president, the former vice president would choose another individual to become his or her vice president.

“Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress,” Section 2 of the amendment explains.

This last happened in 1974, when Vice President Gerald Ford — himself a replacement for Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned after being accused of tax evasion — replaced President Richard Nixon. Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller to serve as his vice president, according to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Fact check:President Pelosi? No, House speaker wouldn’t assume role amid election delay

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

How the House speaker becomes president

Only if a president and vice president become simultaneously unable to serve as president does the speaker of the House ascend to fill the office. That’s because Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution empowered Congress to set a line of succession to the presidency.

“The Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President,” it explains.

Congress exercised that power in the Presidential Succession Act — first passed in 1792, and enacted in 1947 as it stands today, which puts the speaker of the House next in the line of succession after the vice president.

Assuming she remains speaker, Pelosi would only become president if both Biden and Harris became simultaneously unable to serve as president.

Fact check: Fake Trump quote about ending up in prison if Biden wins had its origin in satire

Our rating: Partly false

Based on our research, the claim that if Biden wins the election but cannot serve his full term, Harris will assume the role of president and Pelosi will become vice president is PARTLY FALSE. It’s true that Harris would assume the role of president, but she’d pick a new vice president.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: If VP becomes president, House speaker doesn’t move to VP

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *