Secretary of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson has been named the designated survivor for the Cabinet during President Obama’s State of the Union address. However, if something were to happen, Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (R-SC) would instead assume the Presidency because he is higher in the presidential succession list. Hatch is third in line behind the Vice President and the Speaker of the House. Hatch was selected as part of a Congressional designated survivor program.
The designated survivor program began during the Cold War when there was rampant fear of an attack on the United States, especially when almost all of the federal government is assembled in one room. The designated survivor is kept in an undisclosed location with security and an aide who is holding a nuclear football.
Hatch’s selection is noteworthy because the new President would then be of a different party than the now-late, elected President. Hatch being a Republican, compared to Obama being a Democrat. This happened to an extent in 2009 during the Presidential Inauguration when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was selected as designated survivor. Gates is a Republican, but he was selected by President Obama to remain in his post as Secretary of Defense.