Could the 2008 Presidential race come down to the House of Representatives? ABC News thinks it’s possible, and if it does, the result could be that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain wins the White House. Instead, the Speaker of the House could ascend to the Presidency, assuming the Senate also deadlocks on a choice for VP.
Absurd? Yes. It would take a number of historical firsts to have it happen. The Electoral College would have to produce its first non-decision in the two-party era, throwing the election to Congress. The House would conduct a vote for the Presidency, and the Senate for the VP, but the vote would go by state delegations, not individual votes by members. If both chambers deadlock and remain so by the expiration of George Bush’s term, then Nancy Pelosi becomes President — temporarily:
But what if there was a tied electoral vote, neither presidential candidate could get a 26-state delegation majority in the House, and the Senate deadlocked on the vice presidential pick?
Then, Fortier said, the Presidential Succession Act would kick in.
“That would be the speaker of the House,” Fortier said, ” So the acting president would be Rep. Nancy Pelosi.”
If Congress never decides on the president or the vice president, the speaker of the House could serve all four years as president, Fortier said.
The 1800 election produced an electoral tie in a four-way race, and Thomas Jefferson eventually prevailed over Aaron Burr (fortunately) after a number of ballots. The advent of the two-party system has made Electoral College ties much less likely, however. Even if the election resulted in a 269-269 tie, Democrats control enough state legislatures to guarantee a victory in a House vote.
Even if the House ground to a tie, the matter would remain open until resolved or until the next election. Pelosi might become President, but only until the House resolved the election or until the Senate produced a Vice President to serve as acting President. Perhaps the specter of a President Pelosi would spur both chambers to make any selection as an alternative.