Can Obama Serve as Vice President and Succeed to the Presidency if Kamala Harris Resigns?

The possibility of Barack Obama serving as Vice President and then potentially becoming President again is a complex constitutional question involving interpretations of the Twenty-Second and Twelfth Amendment.

Relevant Constitutional Provisions

1. Twenty-Second Amendment:
– “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice…”
– This limits a person from being elected President more than twice.

2. Twelfth Amendment:
– “…no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.”
– This means that anyone who is ineligible to be President cannot be Vice President.

Key Interpretations and Arguments

1. Eligibility as Vice President:
– The Twelfth Amendment states that a person must be eligible for the presidency to be vice president. Since the Twenty-Second Amendment prevents someone from being elected President more than twice, some argue that it makes Obama ineligible for the Vice Presidency, as he is ineligible to be elected President again.

2. Accession to the Presidency:
– The scenario outlined—Obama becoming Vice President and then ascending to the Presidency upon Kamala Harris’s resignation—raises the issue of whether this counts as “elected to the office” of President. The Twenty-Second Amendment specifically bars election, not succession.

Legal and Scholarly Opinions

– Pro Ineligibility Argument:
– Many legal scholars interpret the Twelfth Amendment to mean that since Obama is constitutionally ineligible to be elected President again, he cannot serve as Vice President. This viewpoint suggests that his ineligibility to be elected as President again makes him ineligible to run for or serve as Vice President.

Pro Eligibility Argument:
– Some argue that the Twenty-Second Amendment only restricts being “elected” to the Presidency. Thus, Obama could technically serve as Vice President and then succeed to the Presidency without being elected to it, not violating the letter of the Twenty-Second Amendment.

Practical Considerations

– Legal Challenges:
– If such a scenario were to occur, it would almost certainly be subject to legal challenges and would require interpretation by the courts, potentially reaching the Supreme Court.

– Political Feasibility:
– Beyond the legal arguments, the political and public response to such a manoeuvre would also be significant and could influence the practical likelihood of it being pursued.


The Twenty-Second Amendment’s prohibition against being elected President more than twice does not explicitly prevent a former two-term President from becoming Vice President and then ascending to the Presidency. However, the Twelfth Amendment’s language about eligibility creates a significant legal ambiguity. Most legal scholars lean towards interpreting these provisions as barring someone like Obama from serving as Vice President due to their ineligibility to be elected President again. Nonetheless, this remains an unsettled area of constitutional law and would require judicial interpretation if ever practically attempted.

Sven Franssen