President for a Day

President Obama took the oath of office for his second presidential term this afternoon, even though Inauguration Day with all its festivities is tomorrow. Why? The 20th Amendment to the Constitution says that a president's term ends on January 20th. This date falls on a Sunday every once in a while. Obama will be sworn in again tomorrow for the public, which will be his fourth swearing-in.

Of course, what would happen if the President, perhaps due to religious convictions, refused to take the oath on a Sunday. Well it happened before, perhaps. Outgoing President James Polk’s term ended on Sunday, March 4, 1849. His successor, Zachary Taylor, refused to be sworn in on a Sunday. Same for incoming VP Millard Filmore.

So who was the President on Sunday, March 4, 1849?

Under the Presidential Succession statute at the time (the Presidential Succession Act of 1792), after the Vice President, the Senatore Pro Tempore was in line. Under this theory, Senator David Atchison of Missouri would have been the President for the Day. However, Atchinson, was the President Pro Temp during the Thirtieth Congress. This position expired when that Congress adjourned on March 4.

Athcinson was in fact sworn in as President Pro Tempore on Monday before either Taylor or Dallas took the oath, so in theory, he was President for a few minutes.

Find out how Atchison spent his day as president at Josh Blackman's Blog. And that wasn't the only time such an anomaly has happened. Blackman has some other odd details of presidential succession and some discussion on the Sunday exception in the Constitution. Link -via Digg

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