It would take a confluence of events that needs to happen just right, but if it does, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) could end up as the president of the United States.
The House picks the president
The first step to this disastrous occurrence would be an Electoral College tie — both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden would have to get 269 electoral votes, in which case the House of Representatives would “break the tie,” according to Fox.
In such a scenario, each state delegation gets one vote. “[F]or example,” Fox explained, “a vote among U.S. representatives from Maryland — which has seven Democrats and one Republican — would go to the Democratic candidate. A vote among U.S. representatives from Florida — which has 13 Democrats and 14 Republicans — would go to the Republican candidate.”
Currently, more state delegations are Republican-dominated than Democrat. According to the Daily Wire, 27 states have more Republicans, 22 have more Democrats, and one is tied.
However, depending on when the vote is held, these numbers could change. New House members elected in 2020 will be sworn in on Jan. 3, according to The Hill, and only time will tell how that will shake up the current numbers.
The Senate chooses the VP
In the case of an electoral tie or non-result, the Senate would meanwhile choose the vice president, according to Fox. As of now, there are too many close Senate races to have any idea how the majority is going to turn out there in 2021, but Fox and the Daily Wire both raised the possibility of a White House where the president and vice president are from different parties.
This happened in the race between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, as the Daily Wire noted, though the rules were a bit different back then.
By Jan. 20, 2021, “[i]f the House can’t decide on the president, and the Senate has chosen a vice president, then the vice president would become the acting president until the matter was resolved,” Fox reported Friday. But if neither the Senate nor House can make a decision — if the state delegations in the House also end up tied, for instance — and assuming Pelosi is sworn in as speaker again on Jan. 3, the California Democrat could become acting president.
A short-lived presidency
It was a scenario recently laid out by Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano. “Stated simply, whoever is the sitting speaker of the United States, would become president at noon on Jan. 20, 2021, if the Electoral College has failed to elect someone,” he said, according to the Daily Wire.
Of course, a Pelosi presidency would likely be short-lived. It would be up to both houses of Congress to somehow decide on a permanent president and vice president for the rest of the term at that point.
Still, even the thought of Pelosi as commander-in-chief is enough to give most Republicans nightmares. She needs to retire, not become president.