If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Why is the Speaker of the House second in succession to the President?

The Speaker of the House is second in line to the presidency after the Vice President. This is because the Speaker is elected by all members of Congress, making them close to the people. The framers wanted Congress to be powerful, not wanting a monarchy. However, being Speaker doesn't necessarily lead to the presidency.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- [Narrator] Why is the Speaker second in succession to the President after the Vice President? - The idea of succession actually it was a little muddied and it wasn't until the 25th amendment that actually the relationship between the President and the Vice President was actually formalized. When William Henry Harrison died and John Tyler came in, his Vice President as President there was a big debate about whether he was actually really the President. So, even though the line of succession is written down there's a lot of debate about whether what enforces it and what doesn't. The Speaker of the House though has prominence in that line of succession because the Speaker of the House is closest to the people and the formation of the federal government. Article one defines the powers of Congress because the framers wanted Congress really to be the powerful branch, close to the people. They were worried about a monarchy. So they didn't want the President to have excessive power and the Speaker of the House represents all of the, is elected by all of the members and so has a closer relationship to the people and that's what gives them power in the question of succession. What's interesting though is that there's only been one Speaker of the House who's then gone on to be President, James K. Polk. So while they are high up in the order of succession behind the Vice President, that doesn't necessarily make the job a stepping stone to actual power of the presidency through the electoral process.