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The Current Presidential Line of Succession

Updated January 20, 2021 61.1k views18 items

This is a list of the people in the line of succession to become President of the United States upon the death, incapacity, resignation, or removal of the acting president or president-elect. Who becomes President if Joe Biden dies? The first up is VP Kamala Harris, followed by the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In the unlikely event that the American President dies or leaves the office, this is the order in which other U.S. politicians would be in line for to become the Acting President.

The line of succession has only come into play a few times in American history. A few times, a vice president has become president when the President has died of natural causes, which has happened 4 times:

-William Henry Harrison died in 1841 after 30 days in office; he was succeeded by John Tyler
-Zachary Taylor died in 1850 after 1 year and 4 months in office; he was succeeded by Millard Fillmore
-Warren G. Harding died in 1923, 2 years and 4 months in office; he was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge
-Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945 after 12 years in office, 1 month into his 4th term; he was succeeded by Harry S. Truman

Several American Vice Presidents have also risen to the presidency following the assassination of the President. This has also happened four times:

-Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, 1 month into his second term; he was succeeded by Andrew Johnson
 -James A. Garfield was assassinated in 1881, after 6 months in office; he was succeeded by Chester Arthur
 -William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, 6 months into his second term; he was succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt
-John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 after 2 years and 10 months in office; he was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson

The one other time a Vice President succeeded to the Presidency followed the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, after which Gerald Ford became President. 

Gosh, that's actually a lot of Vice Presidents who became President, when you consider that there have only been 45 total American Presidents. So far. And in "Battlestar Galactica," Secretary of Education Laura Roslin was #43! in line before the Cylons surprise attacked the Twelve Colonies and killed the whole government. I guess I'm just saying: it doesn't hurt to be prepared.


  • 1

    Vice President of the United States (D) 

    Kamala Devi Harris (born October 20, 1964) is an American lawyer and politician serving as the 49th vice president of the United States. A member of the Democratic Party, Harris is the second African...  more

    #28 of 107 Famous Politicians You'd Want to Have a Beer With#26 of 42 The Most Influential People Of 2021#36 of 94 The Most Influential Women of 2019

  • 2

    Speaker of the House (D)

    Nancy Patricia Pelosi (born March 26, 1940) is an American politician and a member of the Democratic Party. She has served as speaker of the United States House of Representatives since January 2019,...  more

    #290 of 904 Celebrity Death Pool 2021#214 of 302 The Most Influential Politicians In American History#53 of 55 The Most Influential Women Of 2021

  • 3

    President pro tempore of the Senate (R)

    Charles Ernest Grassley (born September 17, 1933) is an American politician serving as the President pro tempore of the United States Senate, and the senior United States Senator from Iowa. He is...  more
  • 4

    Secretary of State (D)

    Antony John Blinken (born April 16, 1962) is an American government official and diplomat. He served as Deputy National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2015 and Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to...  more
  • 5

    Secretary of the Treasury (D)

    Janet Louise Yellen (born August 13, 1946) is an American economist who was the 15th chair of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, the first woman to hold the role. She is a professor emerita at...  more

    #1145 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time#196 of 319 The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models#183 of 269 The Most Powerful Women Of All Time

  • 6

    Secretary of Defense (D)

    Lloyd James Austin III (born August 8, 1953) is an American retired four-star Army general who served as the 12th commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM). Austin was the first black commander of CENTCOM.[1] On December 8, 2020, President Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate Austin as Secretary of Defense.

  • 7

    Attorney General (D)

    Merrick Brian Garland (born November 13, 1952) is an American lawyer and jurist who serves as a United States circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit....  more
  • 8

    Secretary of the Interior (D)

    On December 17, 2020, President Joe Biden announced that he would nominate Haaland to serve as United States Secretary of the Interior. If confirmed, she would become the first Native American to run the Department of the Interior, and the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history.

  • 9
    Secretary of Agriculture (D)
    Thomas James Vilsack (; born December 13, 1950) is an American politician and lawyer who served as the United States Secretary of Agriculture from January 2009 until January 2017. A member of the...  more
  • 10

    Secretary of Commerce (D)

    Gina Marie Raimondo (born May 17, 1971) is an American politician and venture capitalist who is the first woman to serve as Governor of Rhode Island. On January 7, 2021, it was reported that then-President-elect Joe Biden has selected Raimondo to serve as the United States secretary of commerce in the upcoming Biden administration

  • 11

    Secretary of Labor (R)

    Rene Alexander Acosta (born January 16, 1969) is an American attorney, academic, and politician who is the 27th and current United States Secretary of Labor. A Republican, he was appointed by...  more
  • 12

    Secretary of Labor (D)

    Martin Joseph Walsh (born April 10, 1967) is an Irish-American politician from Boston, Massachusetts. A Democrat, he has served as the 54th mayor of Boston since 2014. He was previously a member of...  more
  • 13

    Secretary of Health and Human Services (D)

    Xavier Becerra (born January 26, 1958) is an American politician and lawyer serving as the 33rd and current Attorney General of California since 2017. He previously was a member of the United States...  more
  • 14

    Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (D)

    Marcia Louise Fudge (born October 29, 1952) is an American politician who has been the U.S. Representative for Ohio's 11th congressional district since 2008. A member of the Democratic Party, she won...  more
  • 15

    Secretary of Transportation (D)

    Pete Buttigieg is an American politician who is the current and 32nd Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. A member of the Democratic Party, Buttigieg has been serving as mayor since January 1, 2012. His...  more
  • 16

    Secretary of Energy (D)

    Jennifer Mulhern Granholm (born February 5, 1959) is a Canadian-American politician, lawyer, educator, author, and political commentator. A member of the Democratic Party, she was Attorney General of...  more
  • 17

    Secretary of Veterans Affairs (D)

    Denis Richard McDonough (born December 2, 1969) is an American political and government official. He was the 26th White House Chief of Staff, succeeding Jack Lew at the start of President Barack...  more
  • 18

    Secretary of Homeland Security (D)

    Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas (born November 24, 1959) is an American lawyer and government official. In November 2020, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he would nominate Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security in his Cabinet.