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House speaker is not next in line to replace vice president

October 10, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: If Joe Biden wins the presidential election but cannot serve his full term, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris would become president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become vice president.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Partly false. It is true that the vice president is next in line for the presidency. But the leader of the House of Representatives is not next in line for the vice presidency. 

THE FACTS: A widely shared post on Facebook claims, “If Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the election but cannot serve his full term, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris would assume the role of president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would become vice president.”

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But while the House speaker is second in line for the presidency, that position is not first in line for the vice presidency.

“It is not musical chairs,” Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told The Associated Press. “It is not like the president resigns and then everybody moves up one seat. That is not what the constitution provides.” 

“Instead what happens is the new president picks someone to be the new vice president, and a simple majority of both houses have to approve,” Levinson said.

Section 2 of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution spells out this rule.

“In a scenario where Kamala Harris succeeded Joe Biden due to a Biden death or incapacity, Harris would nominate a new VP who would need to be confirmed by both the House and the Senate,” said James Sample, a professor at Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University.

One Facebook user shared the inaccurate post with the caption, “This is why Nancy cares about the 25th Amendment.”

But Pelosi does not stand to be automatically promoted to vice president should Biden win and be unable to complete his term, or if Trump were to be unable to serve out his term.

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On Oct. 9, Pelosi introduced legislation that would allow Congress to intervene under the 25th Amendment to remove a president. The bill would establish a commission that would assess the president’s ability to lead. 

Pelosi said in a press conference, “This is not about President Donald Trump he will face the judgment of the voters.”

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536