What happens if the President-elect dies before being sworn in? Special

Posted Dec 4, 2020 by Karen Graham
With the coronavirus pandemic rapidly spreading across the U.S., and both President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden both being in their seventies, harsh questions need to be asked - such as, who becomes president if Biden withdraws or dies?
US President-elect Joe Biden says he still hasn't had a call from President Donald Trump
US President-elect Joe Biden says he still hasn't had a call from President Donald Trump
Many people believe that if the Presidential Election is somehow overturned or invalidated in the courts, then Donald Trump will be the next President, says Dr. Rich Cifaldi, a former instructor of U.S. History with the University of Virginia.
However, even the Attorney General of the U.S. now says there is no evidence to support Trump's claims of fraud or improprieties in the election process.
But would Trump become president for a second term if President-elect Joe Biden were to withdraw, or even die before officially being sworn in as our next president?
In most cases, according to Dr. Cifaldi, if the President-Elect dies or “withdraws” (effectively resigning his position) then the Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris, in this case, will become the next President according to the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But even, then, it may not be all cut-and-dried,
"If this happens before the Electoral College votes (Dec 14) and Congress counts the Electoral vote (Jan 6), then the House of Representatives will decide the next US President," Cifaldi says. "In this scenario, each state’s delegation gets one vote. This is the same situation as the House of Representatives breaking a tie in the Electoral College. The winner would need 26 states, one vote for each state delegation, to win the Presidency."
Washington Post columnist Joshua Tucker revived and updated an earlier conversation with New York University's Richard Pildes, a law professor with expertise on elections and U.S. government, that focused on the question: What if the candidate withdraws or dies?
US President-elect Joe Biden is increasingly acting like a leader in waiting
US President-elect Joe Biden is increasingly acting like a leader in waiting
Tucker asked Pildes a new question that was along the same lines - What if the winner of the election were to withdraw or die after Congress has counted the electoral college’s votes in January, but before the president-elect assumes office?
Both Dr. Cifaldi and Dr. Pildes agree that the 20th Amendment to the Constitution answers a basic part of the question. If a president-elect dies before assuming office, the vice president-elect becomes president.
As for just withdrawing from the whole shebang between Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress counts the electoral vote, and Jan. 20, when the president-elect is to assume office - that would be a dumb move. It would be better for the president-elect to go through the swearing-in ceremony and then resign, allowing the new vice-president to assume the office.
The 20th Amendment is a guide
The amendment tells us three things. First, the 20th Amendment says the term of the current president and vice president ends at noon on Jan. 20. There is no provision to extend it. Secondly, the amendment also says if the president-elect dies, the vice president-elect shall be sworn in as president at the start of the new term.
The amendment also specifies noon January 3 as the start and end of the terms of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The length of time between when the electors cast their votes on December 14, and when Congress formally counts them on January 6 seems like a long time. But this rule was designed so that any conflicts or disputes over the validity of an election would be resolved by the new Congress, and not the Lame-Duck Congress.