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President Pelosi? The US House Choosing the Next President? How it Could Happen

10-13-2020
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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

If the 2020 election is disputed, some believe the US Supreme Court would decide the issue much like 20 years ago, with Bush v. Gore. But it could get much more complicated.

The Electoral College really controls who becomes president, and it takes 270 or more of those electors' votes to win. If neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden reaches that number, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could become America's first woman president, at least temporarily.

How could that happen? Title 3, United States Code 19 commands it.

The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky paraphrased the relevant section, saying, "If the president has not been determined by January 20th – which is the official end of a president's term – the acting president of the United States shall become the Speaker of the US House, who will remain acting president until the outcome has been determined."
 
That would be up to the House of Representatives if Biden and Trump end up in an Electoral College deadlock.

US House Took 36 Votes to Pick Between Jefferson & Burr

As Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY) told CBN News, "That's what happened in 1800 between Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson."
 
Their popularity was so evenly split, it took the House voting 36 times before Jefferson narrowly won over Burr.
 
Fast-forward to 2020. Elections authority Spakovsky explained that if neither Trump nor Biden gets a majority of the Electoral votes, the House of Representatives picks whether Biden or Trump wins.

Though it's not by a simple member vote, which now would clearly favor the majority Democrats.
 
Why the Minority GOP May Have More Power Than the Majority Democrats

"The House of Representatives does choose who's the president, but each state only gets one vote," Spakovsky pointed out.

That means a state like Montana or Wyoming with one district gets the same say as California with 53 districts.
 
"There are only 50 votes and the 50 states get to decide," Massie said. "And each of the delegations, the congressional delegations, gets to choose how their vote goes and which way it goes."
 
And what's interesting – is that Republicans currently have a clear majority in more states than Democrats.
 
"The state delegations in 26 states are controlled by Republicans, have a Republican majority," Massie pointed out. "Majority doesn't always mean control, by the way. There could be rogue actors who are Never Trumpers, for instance, among those 26 states. And then there are 22 states where Democrats have a majority of the delegation."
 
The Control of State Delegations Could Radically Change Nov. 3rd

Spakovsky explained, "So what will happen is the congressional delegation within each state, they'll take their own vote – majority wins as to which candidate they choose –  and then that state casts its one vote."

That makes the November 3rd national election even more critical because every seat in the entire House of Representatives is up for a vote. So that means how many states Republicans control and how many Democrats control could radically change.

As for history, when the House has had to pick presidents before, it's meant some wild times in the back rooms of Congress.
 
'The Corrupt Bargain'

"If history is any indicator, there will be a lot of horse-trading and dealing going on," Massie suggested.
 
Like 1824, when leading statesmen John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay made a backroom deal so dirty it became known as "The Corrupt Bargain."
 
"The guy who was in second place, John Quincy Adams, cut a deal with Henry Clay, who was Speaker of the House and who also had been running for president," Massie explained. "And he said, 'I'll make you secretary of state if you use your sway as Speaker of the House to make sure I come out of this in the first place even though I'm going into it in second place.' And, lo and behold, what happened? John Quincy Adams is named president by a majority of the delegations. And Henry Clay becomes secretary of state."
 
But this did not end well for Clay. Massie stated, "Word got out that this deal had been cut and it basically ruined Henry Clay's career."
 
So a House vote on deciding the president could be corrupted. But the loudest cries of protest in the case of this presidential election being tossed into the House will likely be from those who think everything should be decided by majority votes. 
 
And why did the Founders give the states so much power in such cases as opposed to just relying on a raw vote count? 
 
Simple Majority Rule Could Be Close to Mob Rule

"The state delegations decide, not the popular vote," Massie commented. "Our Founders…they never wanted a majority rule because that's closer to mob rule."

As for the present election, now America just has to wait to see if the November election results in a clear, undisputed winner of the presidency. If not, come January, the states may have to pick the winner. Or multiple lawsuits could send that decision to the US Supreme Court just like 2000, the year of the hanging chad. 

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