The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: “If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified….” This provision in the Constitution insures there will be a President of the United States in spite of whatever may happen.
W. Cleon Skousen explained, “The office of President of the United States is the most powerful political assignment in the world. The demands of living in an atomic age make it mandatory that this office remain functional at all times. The authors of this amendment recognized that there was a weakness in the transitional procedure as power is transferred from the incumbent President to the President-elect. A variety of mishaps might occur to prevent the new President from taking over – including the discovery of some disability. This provision was designed to fill this void.” (See The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 752.)
John Copeland Nagle of The Heritage Foundation further explained, “Sections 3 and 4 [of this amendment] address an issue unrelated to the concern about lame-duck Congresses, namely, the circumstances in which the President or the President-elect dies. In the words of Senator [George W.] Norris, Sections 3 and 4 ensure that `there can never arise a contingency where the country will be without a chief magistrate or without the method of selecting a chief magistrate.’ The nation has never had the occasion to put Senator Norris’s confidence to the test….”
(See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 420.)