Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) may be the closest to the presidency she’ll ever get — even if it’s only for a brief moment.
That’s because the position of House speaker lies unclaimed for now with no timeline for a resolution. Murray, who assumed the position of Senate president pro tempore on Tuesday, therefore sits right behind Vice President Kamala Harris in the presidential line of succession until Republicans pick their speaker.
Murray said in a statement she is “truly honored” to assume the pro tem role, which is now held by a woman for the first time in history. Harris, the first woman vice president, administered the oath of office to Murray — wearing her trademark tennis shoes — on Tuesday as her predecessor, former Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), stood behind her.
“It’s a responsibility I am deeply honored to take on for my country and for Washington state,” Murray said. “And I hope that when young women watch footage of the first female vice president — my friend Kamala Harris — swearing me in [Tuesday], they don’t question for a moment whether their voices matter, or if they belong in Congress. Because we need even more women to serve at every level of government.”
Murray has held her Senate seat since 1993 and most recently won reelection in November by a nearly 15-point margin.
Whenever the House does elect a speaker, Murray will shift back to third in line to the presidency after the vice president and speaker.
She’s also poised to lead the powerful Appropriations Committee, giving her major sway in directing hundreds of billions in federal spending.
“There is no one I trust more to be third in the line for presidential succession than Senator Murray,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the floor Tuesday. “She is brilliant, pragmatic and knows how to get things done.”