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Presidency's order of succession

If a sitting president were found to not meet the requirement to be a "natural born citizen" what would happen? Would the president be forced to resign? Would the vice president take over? What would the outcome be? Would there be a new election?

— Jerry K., Ashland

Well, Jerry, there were some efforts to establish that line of thinking during the 2008 campaign. However, President Barack Obama is firmly entrenched in office and the courts have backed his position.

If a sitting president turned out to be foreign-born, only Congress could remove him or her. The House of Representatives would have to issue articles of impeachment and vote whether to impeach. The Senate would then try the president on charges. If convicted by the Senate, the president is removed from office.

Were a president unable to perform his sworn duties, there is a lengthy list of succession of primarily cabinet members who would move into the office.

Presidential succession, which once included the postmaster general, has gone through a series of changes during the past 220 years. The most recent change in March 2006 added the secretary of homeland security to the list.

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are first and second in line of succession. Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd, the senior senator from West Virginia, who has been a member of the U.S. Senate since Jan. 3, 1959, is third in line. Byrd, the longest-serving member in history and the oldest member of Congress, will turn 92 next month.

Here is the current order of succession: vice president; speaker of the House of Representatives; president pro tempore of the Senate; secretary of state; treasury secretary; defense secretary; attorney general; interior secretary; agriculture secretary; commerce secretary; labor secretary; health and human services secretary; housing and urban development secretary; transportation secretary; energy secretary; education secretary; veterans affairs secretary; homeland security secretary.

As far as elections, the new president would govern until the next presidential election (2012, 2016, and so on), with the winner inaugurated the following January.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.