I was aware that the POTUS had emergency powers, but not of draft documents that are ready for him to sign with a moment’s notice. Makes sense that those exist though. In an emergency the last thing you want is to be trying to call in staffers who are on vacation in Bora Bora to draft something quickly that says all the right things. So it makes sense that they’d have stuff ready to go when needed.
Our real vulnerability in an emergency, IMO, is that if a nuke is dropped on DC it is quite possible that every single person in the (relatively short) line of succession could easily be taken out.
Then what TF do we do?
We need an absurdly long line of succession so that there’s no question about what happens, no need to call an emergency POTUS election when the nation is in crisis.
The solution seems obvious to me. Every person in the current line of succession was either voted on by the people, or voted on / confirmed by the House and/or the Senate. Who that’s not on that list falls in that category? Federal judges! So tack onto the bottom of the line of succession:
A) Chief Justice
B) Associate Justices in the order they were seated
C) other federal judges and lay out a hierarchy of order / tiebreakers. Like maybe appeals court judges first in order of confirmation but for ones confirmed together then whomever has the earlier birthday. Then regular federal judges. And you can no longer confirm two judges with the same birthday in the same batch.
Or something… I’m not sure that’s the optimal tie-breaker, but something so that we clearly know who is in charge at that point, which would certainly be a time of national crisis.
We’re never going to run out of judges, and most of them do not live in DC.
And of course standard rules about jumping over anyone not a natural-born citizen and/or not 35 years old. That’s already pretty well laid out.
That’s why federal continuity of government plans require that everyone on the succession list (and a few other folks) be continuously tracked by federal officials, and why designated survivors (with the designated survivor for the presidential succession list getting a backup football) throughout the government are to be evacuated at the first hint of anything going sideways.
The designated survivors are supposedly kept at least a blast radius away from DC.
The feds have supposedly set up bunkers with supplies and gear to perform the essential functions of the government in the event that DC is destroyed. (“Supposedly” = members of the government are not always good about maintaining those supplies/gear and the plans to make use of them.)
Admittedly, there is the risk that someone unleashing full-on global thermonuclear war against the US would target these bunkers to completely wipe out the government, but apparently the risk is reduced partly through redundancy, and partly with the belief that such an adversary would want to keep the government functioning sufficient to call off subsequent volleys of retaliatory strikes.
They supposedly keep someone outside of DC when things look rough.
If there were a true surprise attack (e.g. missile lobbed from a sub, without ground-based missiles getting ready, diplomatic noise, etc.; or a random terrorist act), then that would have a decent chance of wiping out the full succession.
Yeah, this would be the concern. And certainly a random terrorist attack is possible.
Seems like an easy problem to fix.
Without just adding new federal departments willy-nilly, there are up to 18 in the line of succession. At present only 16, since two members of Biden’s cabinet are naturalized citizens. (It’s pretty normal for there to be a couple who are ineligible due to being naturalized and/or under 35.)
I just looked it up and Wikipedia claims that in the Battlestar Gallactica miniseries the new President was 43rd in the line of succession. But AFAICT, in the actual United States, there is no provision for anyone after the cabinet, so really no possibility for more than 18.
Oh and another dumb thing, at 12:00 PM on Inauguration Day the line of succession drops to 4. (Technically usually 3 since the incoming POTUS rarely takes the oath of office until after noon, although they do pretty much always swear in the incoming VPOTUS prior to noon, I think in part so that it wouldn’t go to anyone in Congress during those moments.)
I’ve seen it proposed that there be a mechanism for the Senate to pre-approve cabinet appointees so that they are official at the stroke of noon, or at the latest at the moment the incoming POTUS is sworn in a couple of minutes later. That seems like a common sense thing to do.
Do you know where I could learn about that? I’ve never seen that mentioned anywhere.
Certainly Wikipedia lists the Secretary of Homeland Security as the 18th and final slot in the line of succession in several places, including below.
And there are several other potential issues, such as whether acting secretaries really have a place in line (I think general consensus is that they do, but a case can be made that they don’t) and what should happen if both the POTUS and VPOTUS are temporarily incapacitated, but at least one is expected to return to his/her post in short-ish order. The Speaker of the House may be reluctant to resign from Congress in order to be Acting POTUS for a week and then unemployed.
I recall looking it up in college for a course on the subject; but don’t recall exactly where it was described. But most often, people are interested in the list of identified individuals, so this other aspect may never get “pinged” enough to show up in search engines.
I’ll do some digging later tonight to see what I’m able to uncover.
Well after 9/11 there was a Continuity Commission or something like that formed to look into vulnerabilities, and one of the shortcomings they identified was the possibility of every single person on the list being taken out from a single nuclear strike.
Yeah, but my work was done in the 1990’s; and the “provision” would likely take two weeks minimum to enact (something along the lines of the Senate proposes a candidate and the House votes; analogous process to impeachment).