This question is about possible timing difficulties if a US president becomes ill and then dies. Supposing the president becomes suddenly incapacitated and it is necessary to invoke Section 4 of the 25th amendment of the US Constitution:

Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Can this be done virtually so long as the declaration is in writing?

Suppose the declaration is transmitted; the vice president then becomes acting president. Suppose the vice president is in a location where there is no one qualified to administer the presidential oath of office, and the president dies. Is the status as acting president lost upon the death of the president. I believe it is an unsettled question about whether, after the president's death, the vice president has to wait to take the oath of office before performing presidential duties. Can there be a period of time when the vice president can't act because he/she is neither acting president nor president?

My reason for thinking the need for the vice-president to take the presidential oath is open to question is this paragraph:

That was, until 1841, when Vice President John Tyler acceded to the presidency following the death of William Henry Harrison, the first President to die while in office. In this time of abrupt transition, celebration gave way to commemoration. Tyler was convinced his Vice President's oath entitled him to discharge the succession duty. Persuaded to take the presidential oath of office, the "Tyler Precedent" was established, whereby the Vice President succeeds to the office of the President upon the death of an elected President.

(From https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2000/winter/abrupt-transition)

  • Does a vice president take an oath on becoming acting president? I suspect that it isn't required, but if the vice president did take the presidential oath at any time it would arguably solve this problem. If not, the VP would be president but possibly unable to act, not having taken the oath.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 23 at 11:43
  • Vice presidents have become acting president several times, when the president knew he was going to receive medical treatment and submitted the required letter. The media never mentioned anything about the vice president taking a presidential oath on those occasions. Commented Feb 23 at 18:06
  • I don't see why an oath would be needed when serving as acting president. Acting as president during the president's incapacity is in the job description, so the VP's oath from Inauguration Day ought to cover it.
    – bdb484
    Commented Feb 26 at 0:22


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