Klukowski: Joyce Plan to Make McHenry Acting Speaker Empowers Democrats, Strikes All Republicans from Presidential Succession

Temporary House leader Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., talks with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a
Alex Brandon/AP

Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) is exploring options to give more powers to Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) instead of electing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as Speaker of the House, but doing so would both empower Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to protect the Biden agenda and would remove the only Republican from the line of presidential succession, ensuring complete Democrat control of the United States under all circumstances until at least 2025.

McHenry is currently Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, which is just a placeholder position that allows the U.S. House to facilitate new votes for a real and permanent Speaker, and handle minor administrative items while those votes are ongoing. Joyce’s measure would grant additional powers to McHenry, and the House parliamentarian has given a green light to trying the idea.

But under the Constitution, this plan would cut the only Republican out of the entire line of presidential succession, leaving only 18 Democrats as the actual or potential head of state and commander-in-chief until after the 2024 presidential election.

Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution includes that if the offices of president and vice president are both vacant, “Congress may by Law provide … what Officer shall then act as President…” until the next presidential election.

The House parliamentarian has reportedly decided that the Joyce plan could vest McHenry with all the powers of the Speaker’s office, but that is legally incorrect. The parliamentarian can give advice on House Rules under the Rules Clause of the Constitution, but only a statute passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by the president is a “Law” that satisfies Article II of the Constitution.

If something happens to both the president and vice president, then federal law at 3 U.S.C. § 19 says that the Speaker of the House becomes Acting President “until the expiration of the then current Presidential term.” After the Speaker, it goes to the president pro tempore of the Senate, then Cabinet secretaries in the order that Congress created their departments, starting with the secretary of state and ending with the secretary of homeland security.

But it can only be a person with the true title of Speaker, not Speaker Pro Tempore or Acting Speaker. So if McHenry – or anyone else – is sitting in the Speaker’s chair as anything other than the true Speaker elected by a roll call vote of the House, then after Biden and Harris the powers of the presidency would bypass the House altogether, going to Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) as president pro tempore of the Senate, then to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, then Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and all the way through Biden’s Cabinet, to Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. Everyone in that lineup is a Democrat, aside from a Speaker duly elected by the Republican-majority House.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries indicated Democrats appear eager to push McHenry, specifically saying that defeating Jordan as Speaker is the top priority for Democrats, adding that McHenry is perfectly acceptable to Biden’s party.

This plan by Joyce would thus be a double win for Democrats, both by removing all Republicans from the line to the presidency, and also installing a partially empowered head in the House whom Democrats regard as someone they can use to sideline opposition to the far-left Biden agenda, paving the way for Democrats to retake the House in 2024 and also keep both the White House and the Senate.

“This would be a total sellout of the conservative agenda that won us the House majority,” says former U.S. Ambassador Ken Blackwell, chairman of the Conservative Action Project. “Republican members need to see through this plot by the uni-party establishment to block an America First agenda that would save our constitutional republic by stopping the Biden agenda and paving the way to elect a new president in 2024.”

Ken Klukowski is a Breitbart News senior legal contributor. Follow him on X (Twitter) @kenklukowski.


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