It has been 183 years since the last time a House Speaker and president pro tempore from the same state were in the presidential line of succession

jasonchaffetz20On Sunday, Utah Republican U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz officially announced his bid for House Speaker – setting out to challenge Majority Leader and front runner Kevin McCarthy of California.

Chaffetz provides the caucus with a conservative alternative but is a long shot to upset the Golden State GOPer, despite his high profile controversial statement regarding the Benghazi committee hearings last week.

In the event that Chaffetz enjoys a groundswell of support in the coming weeks and becomes the nation’s 54th Speaker of the House, it would place two lawmakers from the same state in the line of succession, along with fellow Utah Republican Orrin Hatch who is the current president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate.

Since the late 1940s, the House Speaker has been second in the line of succession after the vice president with the Senate’s president pro tempore third.

But how often have both legislative officials represented the same state?

A Smart Politics study finds that if Jason Chaffetz is elected to replace John Boehner it would mark just the fifth time a House Speaker and president pro tempore served the same state and the first time since 1832 for such legislators to be in the line of succession.

It has actually been 116 years since the last time a Speaker and president pro tempore from the same state were in office at the same time with Maine Republicans Thomas Brackett Reed in the lower chamber and William Frye in the upper.

However, it should be noted that neither Reed nor Frye were in the line of succession to be president at that time.

An 1886 law removed both positions from the line (previously established by the 1792 Presidential Succession Act) with cabinet members instead directly following the vice president. Prior to 1886, the president pro tempore was second in line and the Speaker third.

Representative Reed began his second tour as House Speaker in 1895, with his 1889 to 1891 stint interrupted after the Democratic tsunami of 1890.

On February 7, 1896, four-term Senator William Frye became president pro tempore – a position he would hold until his death in August 1911.

During this span, Reed served as Speaker through March 4, 1897 and then again from March 15, 1897 through March 4, 1899.

In total, the two Mainers served in these positions for three years and 16 days.

When a President Harry Truman-led effort to restore both positions to the line of succession was passed in 1947, the Speaker became second after the vice president and the president pro tempore third. [Prior to the late 19th Century the election of a president pro tempore was conducted by the U.S. Senate when the sitting vice president could not preside over the chamber. Since 1890, the position is held continuously].

The last time a Speaker and president pro tempore from the same state were in the line of succession was 183 years ago in 1832 with Virginia Democrats U.S. Rep. Andrew Stevenson and U.S. Senator Littleton Tazewell.

Though their overlap was short-lived at just eight days.

Stevenson was House Speaker from the 20th Congress in 1827 into the 23rd Congress in 1834.

For one week during this period, fellow Old Dominion legislator Tazewell served as president pro tempore, from July 9-16, 1832.

In the early 19th Century there were two other instances of a House Speaker and president pro tempore from the same state serving at the same time:

  • March 10 through November 4, 1804: North Carolina Democratic-Republicans Nathaniel Macon was speaker and Jesse Franklin was president pro tempore
  • April 18, 1814 through March 4, 1815: South Carolina Democratic-Republicans Langdon Cheves (Speaker) and John Gaillard (president pro tempore)

Note: There was one additional close call in 1811. Kentucky Democratic-Republican Henry Clay became House Speaker for the first time on November 4, 1811 – one day after Kentucky U.S. Senator John Pope’s brief tenure as president pro tempore came to an end.

All told, legislators have served in both positions from the same state for a collective 4 years, 7 months, and 6 days since the 1st Congress.

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1 Comment

  1. Nikoli Orr on October 5, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Had IN Republican R G “Dick” Lugar survived a 2012 intra-party challenge (and, hence, a presmued re-election), this very piece would not have been written – since the population of Lugar’s state -both then and now- would have served as the seniority tie-breaker – making him, not “Borin’ Orrin” Hatch, no matter what he bellows/believes, the Senate President Pro Tempore today. As for his prospects, Chaffetz may have 1) the un-recorded, closed-door balloting; 2) the party strength of UT (v CA or even OH); and 3) even current number 2, Representative McCarthy’s gaffe/confession regarding the House Benghazi special panel, in his favour, though perhaps not sufficiently.