PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – In her historic role as president pro tempore, Washington Sen. Patty Murray now stands second in the presidential line of succession after Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ouster as Speaker of the House.
In a 216-210 vote on Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to remove Rep. McCarthy as Speaker in a move led by Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. Tuesday’s vote marks the first time the House has voted to remove a sitting speaker, as reported by The Hill.
In the presidential line of succession, after the vice president, the speaker of the house comes before the president pro tempore. Even though North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry is serving as acting speaker, Murray’s office says she’s still second in line.
In January 2023, Sen. Murray made history as the first-ever female sworn in as president pro tempore, a position that presides over the Senate in the absence of the vice president.
Before she was sworn in, Murray said in a statement, “as the first woman to serve as President Pro Tempore, I will be the first woman to sign the bills we send to President Biden’s desk for his signature and to be designated to preside over the Senate in the absence of the Vice President. It’s a responsibility I am deeply honored to take on for my country and for Washington state. And I hope that when young women watch footage of the first female Vice President—my friend Kamala Harris—swearing me in today, they don’t question for a moment whether their voices matter, or if they belong in Congress. Because we need even more women to serve at every level of government.”
Murray also found herself second in line to the presidency in early 2023 before McCarthy was elected Speaker.
Reflecting on the weight of her pro tempore role to the New York Times, Murray explained, “it’s not the trappings of it. It’s really the, the job of it,” she said. “I have a job to do and it’s really important, and I want to make sure that I’m successful at it.”
As reported by the Associated Press, Murray noted being second in line is a
“It’s an obligation and an opportunity,” Murray said. “And I of course don’t ever want that day to come, but I have to be prepared for it.”
The Presidential Succession Act in 1792 placed the president pro tempore and the speaker of the house in the line of succession. However, in 1886, Congress removed the roles from the line of succession and replaced them with cabinet officers by rank.
In a reversal, the speaker of the house and president pro tempore roles were reinserted into the line of succession in 1947, placing the speaker before the pro tempore.
According to the U.S. Senate, “when the 1945 death of Franklin Roosevelt propelled Vice President Truman into the presidency, Truman urged placing the Speaker, as an elected representative of his district, as well as the chosen leader of the ‘elected representatives of the people,’ next in line to the vice president.”
The Senate adds, “since one could make the same argument for the president pro tempore, Truman’s decision may have reflected his strained relations with 78-year-old President Pro Tempore Kenneth McKellar and his warm friendship with 65-year-old House Speaker Sam Rayburn. After all, it was in Rayburn’s hideaway office, where he had gone for a late afternoon glass of bourbon, that Truman first learned of his own elevation to the presidency.”
As the House searches for the next speaker, Murray said in a statement, “first and foremost, House Republicans should recognize that the American people can see their dysfunction in plain sight. Whoever they choose as their next Speaker, I hope House Republicans understand that their constituents want neither chaos nor the drastic spending cuts being pushed by the far-right, and I hope they understand that bipartisanship is the only path forward for our country. What’s important is that we work together to fund the programs millions of Americans rely on every day—whether it’s food safety inspections or Head Start programs or so much else.”