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President Pro Tempore

Lead the Senate in the absence of the Vice President.

What does a President Pro Tempore do?

The President Pro Tempore is in charge of the United States Senate when the Vice President isn’t available. The job title makes the temporary nature of power in the position quite clear, as “pro tempore” means “for the time being.” This doesn’t mean, however, that the President Pro Tempore position itself is temporary. In fact, some people have held the President Pro Tempore position for decades, which is quite an achievement in Washington, where upheavals are common and job titles are ever changing.

As the President Pro Tempore, you’re an expert on matters of parliamentary procedure, and you’re required to speak up when someone is breaking the rules. Often, you allow new Senators to sit in for you so they can learn those rules and experience a taste of power. Passing off the task is helpful to you as well, as you likely have committees to serve on and other important tasks to handle.

If something catastrophic happens and the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House are killed, you’re next in line to take over the management of the country. Prior to 1947, you were second in line to the Presidency, but you were booted back one place by President Truman.

This is often considered a ceremonial position, so you may not have many specific duties associated with the role. At times, however, you may be asked to elect Senators to committees, call special sessions of the Senate, or meet with the President on specific matters of importance. Also, you often act as a mentor, guide, and Advisor to junior Senators who are green and need to learn how the Senate works.