In the United States, if the president is removed for any reason (death, impeachment, resignation), the Presidential Line of Succession would describe who is president next.

But if one of those people does not want the job, can they refuse it?

If the Vice President prefers being the Vice President, can he just pass the job to the Speaker of the House? (And still remain Vice President?)

Could the Speaker pass the job to President Pro Tempore of the Senate?

  • 7
    It would be a curious situation if people could be made President against their will...
    – user11249
    Jan 17, 2017 at 21:39
  • 6
    In the case of the VP, his ONLY Constitutionally mandated duty is to take over for the president. So its reasonable to believe that he has agreed to it by accepting the position of VP and taking the Oath of Office. Therefore, he may be unable to refuse?
    – abelenky
    Jan 17, 2017 at 21:48
  • 2
    It hasn't come close to happening. If it happens, it would likely be decided in the Supreme Court.
    – Panda
    Jan 17, 2017 at 23:13
  • 3
    @Carpetsmoker - The VP cannot be made president against his will: he always has the option to resign his position altogether.
    – jalynn2
    Jan 18, 2017 at 17:54
  • 1
    @abelenky the VP has the additional constitutionally mandated duty of presiding over the senate and, in the event of a tie, of voting to break the tie.
    – phoog
    Jan 19, 2017 at 5:22

2 Answers 2



In the Presidential Succession Act, the law says that each person becomes President...

upon his resignation [from their previous role]

Any given person could choose not to resign from their current duties, and thus would be disqualified from being President. Disqualification is a valid reason to skip someone in the line of succession.

Additionally, there are provisions for un-skipping someone. A lower-level successor can be supplanted by a higher-level successor if they become eligible to be President. For example, if the Speaker of the House chooses not to resign from the House than they "fail to qualify as Acting President" (in the Act's words). At this point the Secretary of State becomes President. If the Speaker later changes his mind, the act allows him to replace the Secretary of State as President.

This interpretation of the law is confirmed by the Congressional Research Office.

  • 1
    After re-reading the question, I'll add a section to address the Vice Presidency. I believe it's the only case where the person can't opt-out. Jan 18, 2017 at 21:55
  • Why wouldn't the vice president be able to opt out?
    – phoog
    Jan 19, 2017 at 5:25
  • 1
    So if we have someone in the succession who isn't eligible due to age they could be skipped, then 5 months later on their birthday they could oust the current president because their now eligible? Can you imagine being the president who knows he will be fired in 5 months?
    – dsollen
    Jul 3, 2018 at 15:05
  • 2
    The skipping most often comes up in that the President and Vice President must be citizens by Birth where as every office in the line below that must be Naturlized Citizens (i.e. they came here from another country and became legal citizens). If a naturalized citizen is in an office that is in line for succession, he or she will be skipped indefinately. The current Sec. of Transport is skipped for this reason. They are also ineligible for being the Designated Survivor (the person who doesn't get to go to the State of the Union to prevent all Cabinet officers from being killed.
    – hszmv
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:24
  • "fail to qualify as Acting President" Note that Acting President is not what happens when the Presidency is vacant due to the circumstances in the original question and hence the "changing mind" of the officer is less likely to be possible -- plus would seem to undermine the point of the succession in the first place
    – eques
    Jan 11, 2021 at 14:08

Actually, if one of the Cabinet members can be proven not sound of mind, the next person in the Line of Succession can take the reins and so on and so forth.

  • 5
    Can you provide a reference to back up the claim?
    – Alexei
    Jun 30, 2018 at 4:42

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