The Succession: Next in Line

A law passed in 1947 moved the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate ahead of the Secretary of State in the line of succession to the presidency. The theory was that elected, not appointed, officials should have precedence—and for so long as Texas' revered Sam Rayburn was Speaker, there were few questions about the law. But now, with Speaker John McCormack standing next to the President, arguments against the law have been expressed by some who doubt McCormack's capacities.

The main counts against McCormack are his age,...

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