The Vice President of the United States (informally referred to as VPOTUS, or Veep) is a constitutional officer in the legislative branch of the federal government of the United States as the President of the Senate under Article One, Section Three of the U.S. Constitution.
The vice president is a statutory member of the National Security Council under the National Security Act of 1947, and through the 25th Amendment is the highest-ranking official in the presidential line of succession in the executive branch of the federal government. The executive power of both the vice president and the president is granted under Article Two, Section One of the Constitution. The vice president is indirectly elected, together with the president, to a four-year term of office by the people of the United States through the Electoral College. The Office of the Vice President of the United States assists and organizes the vice president's official functions.
As the president of the United States Senate, the vice president votes only when it is necessary to break a tie. While Senate customs have created supermajority rules that have diminished this constitutional tie-breaking authority, the vice president still retains the ability to influence legislation; for example, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 was passed in the Senate by a tie-breaking vice presidential vote.
While the vice president's only constitutionally prescribed functions aside from presidential succession relate to their role as President of the Senate, the role of the vice president evolved during the 20th century into more of an executive branch position. Currently, the vice president is usually seen as an integral part of a president's administration and presides over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions or when a tie-breaking vote may be needed. The Constitution does not expressly assign the office to any one branch, causing a dispute among scholars whether it belongs to the executive branch, the legislative branch, or both. The modern view of the vice president as a member of the executive branch is due in part to the assignment of executive duties to the vice president by either the president or Congress.
The formation of the office of vice president resulted directly from the compromise reached at the Philadelphia Convention which created the Electoral College. The delegates at Philadelphia agreed that each state would receive a number of presidential electors equal to the sum of that state's allocation of Representatives and Senators. The delegates assumed that electors would typically choose to favor any candidate from their state (the so-called "favorite son" candidate) over candidates from other states. Under a plurality election process, this would tend to result in electing candidates solely from the largest states. Consequently, the delegates agreed that presidents must be elected by an absolute majority of the number of electors. Yet, the delegates also assumed that the requirement of an absolute majority for an election might not be sufficient to entice electors to vote for candidates who were from another state, since such a vote might be viewed by their constituents as a vote against their own state, imposing too steep a political cost on that elector's choice and ultimately resulting in elections which failed to produce a winner. To counter this potential difficulty, the delegates further agreed to give each elector two votes, requiring that at least one of their votes must be for a candidate from outside the elector's state, believing that this second vote could be cast without political cost for a statesman of national character.
However, even under that system, the delegates feared that electors might attempt to game the election, strategically throwing away their second vote in order to bolster their favorite son's chance of winning. To guard against such stratagems, the Philadelphia delegates specified that the first runner-up presidential candidate would become vice president. Creating this new office imposed a political cost on strategically discarded electoral votes, incentivizing electors to make their choices for president without resort to electoral gamesmanship and to cast their second ballot accordingly.
The process for selecting the vice president was later modified in the Twelfth Amendment. Each elector still receives two votes, but now only one of those votes is for president, while the other is for vice president. The requirement that one of those votes be cast for a candidate not from the elector's own state remains in effect. The emergence of national political parties in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, their processes of nomination candidates for each office, their nominations of party loyalists for election to Electoral College positions, the Twelfth Amendment, and the consequent turn of presidential campaigns towards seeking to maximize their electoral vote totals have alleviated much of the electoral gamesmanship that caused concern for the delegates at Philadelphia.
Roles of the vice president
The Constitution limits the formal powers and role of vice president to becoming president, should the president become unable to serve, prompting the well-known expression "only a heartbeat away from the presidency," and to acting as the presiding officer of the U.S. Senate. Other statutorily granted roles include membership of both the National Security Council and the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution.
President of the United States Senate
As President of the Senate, the vice president has two primary duties: to cast a vote in the event of a Senate deadlock and to preside over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral College. For example, in the first half of 2001, the Senators were divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats had the majority from January 3 to noon January 20 with Al Gore's tie-breaking vote. Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote gave the Republicans the Senate majority until June 6, 2001 when Jim Jeffords left the Republican Party.
As President of the Senate (Article I, Section 3, Clause 4), the vice president oversees procedural matters and may cast a tie-breaking vote. There is a strong convention within the U.S. Senate that the vice president should not use their position as President of the Senate to influence the passage of legislation or act in a partisan manner, except in the case of breaking tie votes. As President of the Senate, John Adams cast 29 tie-breaking votes that was later surpassed by John C. Calhoun with 31, no other vice president since then has ever threatened this record. Adams's votes protected the president's sole authority over the removal of appointees, influenced the location of the national capital, and prevented war with Great Britain. On at least one occasion Adams persuaded senators to vote against legislation he opposed, and he frequently addressed the Senate on procedural and policy matters. Adams's political views and his active role in the Senate made him a natural target for critics of George Washington's administration. Toward the end of his first term, a threatened resolution that would have silenced him except for procedural and policy matters caused him to exercise more restraint in hopes of seeing his election as President of the United States.
Formerly, the vice president would preside regularly over Senate proceedings, but in modern times, the vice president rarely presides over day-to-day matters in the Senate; in their place, the Senate chooses a President pro tempore (or "president for a time") to preside in the vice president's absence; the Senate normally selects the longest-serving senator in the majority party. The President pro tempore has the power to appoint any other senator to preside, and in practice junior senators from the majority party are assigned the task of presiding over the Senate at most times.
Except for this tie-breaking role, the Standing Rules of the Senate vest no significant responsibilities in the vice president. Rule XIX, which governs debate, does not authorize the vice president to participate in debate, and grants only to members of the Senate (and, upon appropriate notice, former presidents of the United States) the privilege of addressing the Senate, without granting a similar privilege to the sitting vice president. Thus, as Time magazine wrote during the controversial tenure of Vice President Charles G. Dawes, "once in four years the Vice President can make a little speech, and then he is done. For four years he then has to sit in the seat of the silent, attending to speeches ponderous or otherwise, of deliberation or humor."
Recurring, infrequent duties
The President of the Senate also presides over counting and presentation of the votes of the Electoral College. This process occurs in the presence of both houses of Congress, generally on January 6 of the year following a U.S. presidential election. In this capacity, only four vice presidents have been able to announce their own election to the presidency: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, and George H. W. Bush. At the beginning of 1961, it fell to Richard Nixon to preside over this process, which officially announced the election of his 1960 opponent, John F. Kennedy. In 2001, Al Gore announced the election of his opponent, George W. Bush. In 1969, Vice President Hubert Humphrey would have announced the election of his opponent, Richard Nixon; however, on the date of the Congressional joint session (January 6), Humphrey was in Norway attending the funeral of Trygve Lie, the first elected Secretary-General of the United Nations. The president pro tempore presided in Humphrey's absence.
In 1933, incumbent Vice President Charles Curtis announced the election of House Speaker John Nance Garner as his successor, while Garner was seated next to him on the House dais. The President of the Senate may also preside over most of the impeachment trials of federal officers. However, whenever the President of the United States is impeached, the US Constitution requires the Chief Justice of the United States to preside over the Senate for the trial. The Constitution is silent as to the presiding officer in the instance where the vice president is the officer impeached.
Succession and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment
The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1, Clause 6) provides that "In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, ..." Initially, it was unclear whether this meant the vice president became the new president or merely an acting president. This was first tested in 1841 with the death of President William Henry Harrison. Harrison's vice president, John Tyler, asserted that he had succeeded to the full presidential office, powers, and title, and declined to acknowledge documents referring to him as "Acting President." Despite some strong calls against it, Tyler took the oath of office as the nation's tenth President. Although some in Congress denounced Tyler's claim as a violation of the Constitution, it was not challenged legally, and so the Tyler precedent of full succession was established. This was made explicit by Section 1 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1967. In total, nine Vice Presidents have succeeded to the presidency. In addition to Tyler they are, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Gerald Ford.
Section 2 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment provides for vice presidential succession:
Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Gerald Ford was the first vice president selected by this method, after the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973; after succeeding to the presidency, Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller as vice president.
Another issue was who had the power to declare that an incapacitated president is unable to discharge his duties. This question had arisen most recently with the illnesses of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Sections 3 and 4 of the amendment provide means for the vice president to become acting president upon the temporary disability of the president. Section 3 deals with self-declared incapacity of the president. Section 4 deals with incapacity declared by the joint action of the vice president and of a majority of the Cabinet or of such other body as Congress may by law provide. While Section 4 has never been invoked, Section 3 has been invoked three times: on July 13, 1985 when Ronald Reagan underwent surgery to remove cancerous polyps from his colon, and twice more on June 29, 2002 and July 21, 2007 when George W. Bush underwent colonoscopy procedures requiring sedation. Prior to this amendment, Vice President Richard Nixon informally assumed some of President Dwight Eisenhower's duties for several weeks on each of three occasions when Eisenhower was ill.
The extent of any informal roles and functions of the vice president depend on the specific relationship between the president and the vice president, but often include tasks such as drafter and spokesperson for the administration's policies, adviser to the president, and being a symbol of American concern or support. The influence of the vice president in this role depends almost entirely on the characteristics of the particular administration. Dick Cheney, for instance, was widely regarded as one of President George W. Bush's closest confidants. Al Gore was an important adviser to President Bill Clinton on matters of foreign policy and the environment. Often, vice presidents are chosen to act as a "balance" to the president, taking either more moderate or radical positions on issues.
Under the American system the president is both head of state and head of government, and the ceremonial duties of the former position are often delegated to the vice president. The vice president is often assigned the ceremonial duties of representing the president and the government at state funerals or other functions in the United States. This often is the most visible role of the vice president, and has occasionally been the subject of ridicule, such as during the vice presidency of George H. W. Bush. The vice president may meet with other heads of state or attend state funerals in other countries, at times when the administration wishes to demonstrate concern or support but cannot send the president themselves.
Office as stepping stone to the presidency
In recent decades, the vice presidency has frequently been used as a platform to launch bids for the presidency. The transition of the office to its modern stature occurred primarily as a result of Franklin Roosevelt's 1940 nomination, when he captured the ability to nominate his running mate instead of leaving the nomination to the convention. Prior to that, party bosses often used the vice presidential nomination as a consolation prize for the party's minority faction. A further factor potentially contributing to the rise in prestige of the office was the adoption of presidential preference primaries in the early 20th century. By adopting primary voting, the field of candidates for vice president was expanded by both the increased quantity and quality of presidential candidates successful in some primaries, yet who ultimately failed to capture the presidential nomination at the convention.
Of the thirteen presidential elections from 1956 to 2004, nine featured the incumbent president; the other four (1960, 1968, 1988, 2000) all featured the incumbent vice president. Former vice presidents also ran, in 1984 (Walter Mondale), and in 1968 (Richard Nixon, against the incumbent vice president, Hubert Humphrey). The presidential election of 2008 was the first presidential election since 1928 that saw neither an incumbent president nor an incumbent or former vice president, take part in any primary or general election for the presidency on a major party ticket. Nixon is the only vice president to have been elected president while not an incumbent, as well as the only person elected twice to both the presidency and vice presidency.
The Twelfth Amendment states that "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice President of the United States." Thus, to serve as vice president, an individual must:
Additionally, Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment denies eligibility for any federal office to anyone who, having sworn an oath to support the United States Constitution, later has rebelled against the United States. This disqualification, originally aimed at former supporters of the Confederacy, may be removed by a two-thirds vote of each house of the Congress.
Under the Twenty-second Amendment, the President of the United States may not be elected to more than two terms. However, there is no similar limitation on how many times one can be elected vice president. Scholars disagree whether a former president barred from election to the presidency is also ineligible to be elected or appointed vice president, as suggested by the Twelfth Amendment. Age, nation of birth, and length of residency in the U.S. are eligibility requirements easily tested by reference to established facts, but the contingent and uncertain nature of vice presidential lines of succession mean that an otherwise eligible American citizen who had been elected as President for two terms might not therefore lose eligibility for the vice presidency if he or she is later appointed by Congress to the vice presidency through procedures codified by the Presidential Succession Act. However, this scenario has not yet been tested. Also, Article I, Section 3, Clause 7 allows the Senate, upon voting to remove an impeached federal official from office, to disqualify that official from holding any federal office.
While it is commonly held that the president and vice president must be residents of different states, this is not actually the case. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits both candidates being from a single state.
Instead, the limitation in the Twelfth Amendment imposed is on the members of the Electoral College, who must cast a ballot for at least one candidate who is not from their own state.
In theory, the candidates elected could both be from one state, but the electors of that state would, in a close electoral contest, run the risk of denying their vice presidential candidate the absolute majority required to secure the election, even if the presidential candidate is elected. This would then place the vice presidential election in the hands of the Senate.
In practice, however, residency is rarely an issue. Parties have avoided nominating tickets containing two candidates from the same state. Further, the candidates may themselves take action to alleviate any residency conflict. For example, at the start of the 2000 election cycle Dick Cheney was a resident of Texas; Cheney quickly changed his residency back to Wyoming, where he had previously served as a U.S. Representative, when Texas governor and Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush asked Cheney to be his vice presidential candidate.
Though the vice president does not need to have any political experience, most major-party vice presidential nominees are current or former United States Senators or Representatives, with the occasional nominee being a current or former Governor, a high-ranking military officer, or a holder of a major post within the Executive Department. The vice presidential candidates of the major national political parties are formally selected by each party's quadrennial nominating convention, following the selection of the party's presidential candidates. The official process is identical to the one by which the presidential candidates are chosen, with delegates placing the names of candidates into nomination, followed by a ballot in which candidates must receive a majority to secure the party's nomination.
In practice, the presidential nominee has considerable influence on the decision, and in the 20th century it became customary for that person to select a preferred running mate, who is then nominated and accepted by the convention. In recent years, with the presidential nomination usually being a foregone conclusion as the result of the primary process, the selection of a vice presidential candidate is often announced prior to the actual balloting for the presidential candidate, and sometimes before the beginning of the convention itself. The first presidential aspirant to announce his selection for vice president before the beginning of the convention was Ronald Reagan who, prior to the 1976 Republican National Convention announced that Richard Schweiker would be his running mate. Reagan's supporters then sought to amend the convention rules so that Gerald R. Ford would be required to name his vice presidential running mate in advance as well. The proposal was defeated, and Reagan did not receive the nomination in 1976. Often, the presidential nominee will name a vice presidential candidate who will bring geographic or ideological balance to the ticket or appeal to a particular constituency.
The vice presidential candidate might also be chosen on the basis of traits the presidential candidate is perceived to lack, or on the basis of name recognition. To foster party unity, popular runners-up in the presidential nomination process are commonly considered. While this selection process may enhance the chances of success for a national ticket, in the past it often insured that the vice presidential nominee represented regions, constituencies, or ideologies at odds with those of the presidential candidate. As a result, vice presidents were often excluded from the policy-making process of the new administration. Many times their relationships with the president and his staff were aloof, non-existent, or even adversarial.
The ultimate goal of vice presidential candidate selection is to help and not hurt the party's chances of getting elected, nonetheless several vice presidential selections have been controversial. In 1984, Democratic nominee Walter Mondale's groundbreaking choice of Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate (the first woman in U.S. history nominated for Vice President by a major political party), became a drag on the ticket due to repeated questions about her husband's finances. A selection whose positive traits make the presidential candidate look less favorable in comparison or which can cause the presidential candidate's judgment to be questioned often backfire, such as in 1988 when Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis chose experienced Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen; Bentsen was considered a more seasoned statesman in federal politics and somewhat overshadowed Dukakis. Questions about Dan Quayle's experience were raised in the 1988 presidential campaign of George H. W. Bush, but the Bush-Quayle ticket still won handily. James Stockdale, the choice of third-party candidate Ross Perot in 1992, was seen as unqualified by many and Stockdale had little preparation for the vice presidential debate, but the Perot-Stockdale ticket still won about 19% of the vote. In 2008, Republican John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate over his primary rivals and/or campaign surrogates such as Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge. This surprise move would, it was hoped, draw women voters disappointed by Hillary Clinton's defeat in the Democratic presidential primaries into the McCain camp. Palin's selection soon came to be seen as a negative for McCain, due to her several controversies during her gubernatorial tenure which were highlighted by the press, and her feuding with McCain campaign chairman Steve Schmidt. This perception continued to grow throughout the campaign, especially after her interviews with Katie Couric led to concerns about her fitness for the presidency.
Historically, vice presidential candidates were chosen to provide geographic and ideological balance to a presidential ticket, widening a presidential candidate's appeal to voters from outside his regional base or wing of the party. Candidates from electoral-vote rich states were usually preferred. However, in 1992, moderate Democrat Bill Clinton (of Arkansas) chose moderate Democrat Al Gore (of Tennessee) as his running mate. Despite the two candidates' near-identical ideological and regional backgrounds, Gore's extensive experience in national affairs enhanced the appeal of a ticket headed by Clinton, whose political career had been spent entirely at the local and state levels of government. In 2000, George W. Bush chose Dick Cheney of Wyoming, a reliably Republican state with only three electoral votes, and in 2008, Barack Obama mirrored Bush's strategy when he chose Joe Biden of Delaware, a reliably Democratic state, likewise one with only three electoral votes. Both Cheney and Biden were chosen for their experience in national politics (experience lacked by both Bush and Obama) rather than the ideological balance or electoral vote advantage they would provide.
The first presidential candidate to choose his vice presidential candidate was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. The last not to name a vice presidential choice, leaving the matter up to the convention, was Democrat Adlai Stevenson in 1956. The convention chose Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver over Massachusetts Senator (and later president) John F. Kennedy. At the tumultuous 1972 Democratic convention, presidential nominee George McGovern selected Senator Thomas Eagleton as his running mate, but numerous other candidates were either nominated from the floor or received votes during the balloting. Eagleton nevertheless received a majority of the votes and the nomination, though he later resigned from the ticket, resulting in Sargent Shriver becoming McGovern's final running mate; both lost to the Nixon-Agnew ticket by a wide margin, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.
In cases where the presidential nomination is still in doubt as the convention approaches, the campaigns for the two positions may become intertwined. In 1976, Ronald Reagan, who was trailing President Gerald R. Ford in the presidential delegate count, announced prior to the Republican National Convention that, if nominated, he would select Senator Richard Schweiker as his running mate. This move backfired to a degree, as Schweiker's relatively liberal voting record alienated many of the more conservative delegates who were considering a challenge to party delegate selection rules to improve Reagan's chances. In the end, Ford narrowly won the presidential nomination and Reagan's selection of Schweiker became moot.
In the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries which pitted Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama, Clinton suggested a Clinton-Obama ticket with Obama in the vice president slot as it would be "unstoppable" against the presumptive Republican nominee. Obama rejected the offer outright saying "I want everybody to be absolutely clear. I'm not running for vice president. I'm running for president of the United States of America" while noting "With all due respect. I won twice as many states as Sen. Clinton. I've won more of the popular vote than Sen. Clinton. I have more delegates than Sen. Clinton. So, I don't know how somebody who's in second place is offering vice presidency to the person who's in first place". Obama stated that the nomination process would have to be a choice between himself and Clinton, saying "I don't want anybody here thinking that 'Somehow, maybe I can get both'", by nominating Clinton as president and assuming he would be her running mate". Some suggested that it was a ploy by the Clinton campaign to denigrate Obama as less qualified for the presidency. Later, when Obama became the presumptive Democratic nominee, former President Jimmy Carter cautioned against Clinton being picked for the vice president slot on the ticket, saying "I think it would be the worst mistake that could be made. That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates", citing opinion polls showing 50% of US voters with a negative view of Hillary Clinton.
Vice presidents are elected indirectly in the United States. A number of electors, collectively known as the Electoral College, officially select the president and vice president. On Election Day, voters in each of the states and the District of Columbia cast ballots for these electors. Each state is allocated a number of electors, equal to the size of its delegation in both Houses of Congress combined. Generally, the ticket that wins the most votes in a state wins all of that state's electoral votes and thus has its slate of electors chosen to vote in the Electoral College.
The winning slate of electors meet at its state's capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, about six weeks after the election, to vote. They then send a record of that vote to Congress. The vote of the electors is opened by the sitting vice president, acting in his capacity as President of the Senate and read aloud to a joint session of the incoming Congress, which was elected at the same time as the president and vice president.
Oath and tenure
Pursuant to the Twentieth Amendment, the vice president's term of office begins at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. This date, known as Inauguration Day, marks the beginning of the four-year terms of both the president and vice president.
Although Article VI requires that the vice president take an oath or affirmation of allegiance to the US Constitution, unlike the president, the United States Constitution does not specify the precise wording of the oath of office for the vice president. Several variants of the oath have been used since 1789; the current form, which is also recited by Senators, Representatives and other government officers, has been used since 1884:
I, (first name last name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
The term of office for vice president is four years. While the Twenty-Second Amendment generally restricts the president to two terms, there is no such limitation on the office of vice president, meaning an eligible person could hold the office as long as voters continued to vote for electors who in turn would reelect the person to the office. Additionally, a vice president could even serve under different presidents. George Clinton and John C. Calhoun both did so during the early 1800s.
Original election process and reform
Under the original terms of the Constitution, the electors of the Electoral College voted only for office of president rather than for both president and vice president. Each elector was allowed to vote for two people for the top office. The person receiving the greatest number of votes (provided that such a number was a majority of electors) would be president, while the individual who received the next largest number of votes became vice president. If no one received a majority of votes, then the House of Representatives would choose among the five candidates with the largest numbers of votes, with each state's representatives together casting a single vote. In such a case, the person who received the highest number of votes but was not chosen president would become vice president. In the case of a tie for second, then the Senate would choose the vice president.
The original plan, however, did not foresee the development of political parties and their adversarial role in the government. For example, in the election of 1796, Federalist John Adams came in first, but because the Federalist electors had divided their second vote amongst several vice presidential candidates, Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson came second. Thus, the president and vice president were from opposing parties. Predictably, Adams and Jefferson clashed over issues such as states' rights and foreign policy.
A greater problem occurred in the election of 1800, in which the two participating parties each had a secondary candidate they intended to elect as vice president, but the more popular Democratic-Republican party failed to execute that plan with their electoral votes. Under the system in place at the time (Article II, Section 1, Clause 3), the electors could not differentiate between their two candidates, so the plan had been for one elector to vote for Thomas Jefferson but not for Aaron Burr, thus putting Burr in second place. This plan broke down for reasons that are disputed, and both candidates received the same number of votes. After 35 deadlocked ballots in the House of Representatives, Jefferson finally won on the 36th ballot and Burr became vice president.
This tumultuous affair led to the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, which directed the electors to use separate ballots to vote for the president and vice president. While this solved the problem at hand, it ultimately had the effect of lowering the prestige of the vice presidency, as the office was no longer for the leading challenger for the presidency. The separate ballots for president and vice president became something of a moot issue later in the 19th century when it became the norm for popular elections to determine a state's Electoral College delegation. Electors chosen this way are pledged to vote for a particular presidential and vice presidential candidate (offered by the same political party). So, while the Constitution says that the president and vice president are chosen separately, in practice they are chosen together.
If no vice presidential candidate receives an Electoral College majority, then the Senate selects the vice president, in accordance with the United States Constitution. The Twelfth Amendment states that a "majority of the whole number" of Senators (currently 51 of 100) is necessary for election. Further, the language requiring an absolute majority of Senate votes precludes the sitting vice president from breaking any tie which might occur. The election of 1836 is the only election so far where the office of the vice president has been decided by the Senate. During the campaign, Martin Van Buren's running mate Richard Mentor Johnson was accused of having lived with a black woman. Virginia's 23 electors, who were pledged to Van Buren and Johnson, refused to vote for Johnson (but still voted for Van Buren). The election went to the Senate, where Johnson was elected 33-17.
The vice president's salary is $230,700. The salary was set by the 1989 Government Salary Reform Act, which also provides an automatic cost of living adjustment for federal employees. The vice president does not automatically receive a pension based on that office, but instead receives the same pension as other members of Congress based on his position as President of the Senate. The vice president must serve a minimum of two years to qualify for a pension.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 and Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution both authorize the House of Representatives to serve as a "grand jury" with the power to impeach high federal officials, including the president, for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Similarly, Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 and Article II, Section 4 both authorize the Senate to serve as a court with the power to remove impeached officials from office, given a two-thirds vote to convict. No vice president has ever been impeached.
Prior to ratification of the Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1967, no constitutional provision existed for filling an intra-term vacancy in the vice presidency. As a result, when one occurred, the office was left vacant until filled through the next ensuing election and inauguration. Between 1812 and 1967, the vice presidency was vacant on sixteen occasions—as a result of seven deaths, one resignation, and eight cases in which the vice president succeeded to the presidency.
Since the Twenty-Fifth Amendment came into force the office has been vacant twice, until the confirmation of a new vice president by both houses of Congress and the swearing in ceremony. The first such instance occurred in 1973 following the resignation of Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's vice president. Gerald Ford was subsequently nominated by President Nixon and confirmed by Congress. The second occurred 10 months later when Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal and Ford assumed the presidency. The resulting vice presidential vacancy was filled by Nelson Rockefeller. Ford and Rockefeller are the only two people to have served as vice president without having been elected to the office, and Ford remains the only person to have served as both vice president and president without being elected to either office.
|Vice Presidency vacancies|
|Reason||Next Vice President|
|March 4, 1789–April 21, 1789||48||Logistical delays as the new Federal Government began operations.||John Adams, following his inauguration.|
|April 20, 1812–March 4, 1813||318||George Clinton died.||Elbridge Gerry, following election of 1812.|
|November 23, 1814–March 4, 1817||832||Elbridge Gerry died.||Daniel D. Tompkins, following election of 1816.|
|December 28, 1832–March 4, 1833||66||John C. Calhoun resigned.||Martin Van Buren, following election of 1832.|
|April 4, 1841–March 4, 1845||1,430||John Tyler succeeded to presidency.||George M. Dallas, following election of 1844.|
|July 9, 1850–March 4, 1853||969||Millard Fillmore succeeded to presidency.||William R. King, following election of 1852.|
|April 18, 1853–March 4, 1857||1,416||William R. King died.||John C. Breckinridge, following election of 1856.|
|April 15, 1865–March 4, 1869||1,419||Andrew Johnson succeeded to presidency.||Schuyler Colfax, following election of 1868.|
|November 22, 1875–March 4, 1877||468||Henry Wilson died.||William A. Wheeler, following election of 1876.|
|September 19, 1881–March 4, 1885||1,262||Chester A. Arthur succeeded to presidency.||Thomas A. Hendricks, following election of 1884.|
|November 25, 1885–March 4, 1889||1,195||Thomas A. Hendricks died.||Levi P. Morton, following election of 1888.|
|November 21, 1899–March 4, 1901||468||Garret Hobart died.||Theodore Roosevelt, following election of 1900.|
|September 14, 1901–March 4, 1905||1,267||Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to presidency.||Charles W. Fairbanks, following election of 1904.|
|October 30, 1912–March 4, 1913||125||James S. Sherman died.||Thomas R. Marshall, following election of 1912.|
|August 2, 1923–March 4, 1925||580||Calvin Coolidge succeeded to presidency.||Charles G. Dawes, following election of 1924.|
|April 12, 1945–January 20, 1949||1,379||Harry S. Truman succeeded to presidency.||Alben W. Barkley, following election of 1948.|
|November 22, 1963–January 20, 1965||425||Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded to presidency.||Hubert Humphrey, following election of 1964.|
|October 10, 1973–December 6, 1973||57||Spiro Agnew resigned.||Gerald Ford, following confirmation by Congress.|
|August 9, 1974–December 19, 1974||132||Gerald Ford succeeded to presidency.||Nelson Rockefeller, following confirmation by Congress.|
Growth of the office
|“||My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.||”|
|— John Adams, to his wife|
For much of its existence, the office of vice president was seen as little more than a minor position. Adams, the first vice president, was the first of many who found the job frustrating and stupefying, writing to his wife Abigail that "My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Many vice presidents lamented the lack of meaningful work in their role. John Nance Garner, who served as vice president from 1933 to 1941 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, claimed that the vice presidency "isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss." Harry Truman, who also served as vice president under Roosevelt, said that the office was as "useful as a cow's fifth teat."
Thomas R. Marshall, the 28th vice president, lamented: "Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea; the other was elected Vice President of the United States. And nothing was heard of either of them again." His successor, Calvin Coolidge, was so obscure that Major League Baseball sent him free passes that misspelled his name, and a fire marshal failed to recognize him when Coolidge's Washington residence was evacuated.
When the Whig Party asked Daniel Webster to run for the vice presidency on Zachary Taylor's ticket, he replied "I do not propose to be buried until I am really dead and in my coffin." This was the second time Webster declined the office, which William Henry Harrison had first offered to him. Ironically, both of the presidents making the offer to Webster died in office, meaning the three-time presidential candidate could have become president if he had accepted either. Since presidents rarely died in office, however, the better preparation for the presidency was considered to be the office of Secretary of State, in which Webster served under Harrison, Tyler, and later, Taylor's successor, Fillmore.
For many years, the vice president was given few responsibilities. Garret Hobart, the first vice president under William McKinley, was one of the very few vice presidents at this time who played an important role in the administration. A close confidant and adviser of the president, Hobart was called "Assistant President." However, until 1919, vice presidents were not included in meetings of the President's Cabinet. This precedent was broken by President Woodrow Wilson when he asked Thomas R. Marshall to preside over Cabinet meetings while Wilson was in France negotiating the Treaty of Versailles. President Warren G. Harding also invited his vice president, Calvin Coolidge, to meetings. The next vice president, Charles G. Dawes, did not seek to attend Cabinet meetings under President Coolidge, declaring that "the precedent might prove injurious to the country." Vice President Charles Curtis was also precluded from attending by President Herbert Hoover.
In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt raised the stature of the office by renewing the practice of inviting the vice president to cabinet meetings, which every president since has maintained. Roosevelt's first vice president, John Nance Garner, broke with him over the "court-packing issue, early in his second term, and became Roosevelt's leading critic. At the start of that term, on January 20, 1937, Garner had been the first Vice President to be sworn into office on the Capitol steps in the same ceremony with the president; a tradition that continues. Prior to that time, vice presidents were traditionally inaugurated at a separate ceremony in the Senate chamber. Gerald R. Ford and Nelson A. Rockefeller, who were both appointed to the office under the terms of the 25th amendment, were inaugurated in the House and Senate chambers, respectively.
Henry Wallace, Roosevelt's Vice President during his third term (1941–1945), was given major responsibilities during World War II. However, after numerous policy disputes between Wallace and other Roosevelt Administration and Democratic Party officials, he was denied renomination to office at the 1944 Democratic National Convention. Harry Truman was selected instead. During his 82 day vice presidency, Truman was not informed about any war or post-war plans, including the Manhattan Project, leading Truman to remark, wryly, that the job of the Vice President was to "go to weddings and funerals." As a result of this experience, Truman, after succeeding to the presidency upon Roosevelt 's death, recognized the need to keep the Vice President informed on national security issues. Congress made the vice president one of four statutory members of the National Security Council in 1949.
The stature of the Vice-presidency grew again while Richard Nixon was in office (1953–1961). He attracted the attention of the media and the Republican party, when Dwight Eisenhower authorized him to preside at Cabinet meetings in his absence. Nixon was also the first vice president to formally assume temporary control of the executive branch, which he did after Eisenhower suffered a heart attack on September 24, 1955, ileitis in June 1956, and a stroke in November 1957.
Until 1961, vice presidents had their offices on Capitol Hill, a formal office in the Capitol itself and a working office in the Russell Senate Office Building. Lyndon B. Johnson was the first vice president to be given an office in the White House complex, in the Old Executive Office Building. The former Navy Secretary's office in the OEOB has since been designated the "Ceremonial Office of the Vice President" and is today used for formal events and press interviews. President Jimmy Carter was the first president to give his vice president, Walter Mondale, an office in the West Wing of the White House, which all vice presidents have since retained. Because of their function as Presidents of the Senate, vice presidents still maintain offices and staff members on Capitol Hill.
Though Walter Mondale's tenure was the beginning of the modern day power of the vice presidency, the tenure of Dick Cheney saw a rapid growth in the office of the vice president. Vice President Cheney held a tremendous amount of power and frequently made policy decisions on his own, without the knowledge of the President. After his tenure, and during the 2008 presidential campaign, both vice presidential candidates, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, stated the office had expanded too much under Cheney's tenure and both claimed they would reduce the role to simply being an adviser to the president.
|Living former vice presidents|
Four vice presidents have been elected to the presidency while serving as vice president: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren and George H. W. Bush. Additionally, John C. Breckinridge, Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and Al Gore were each nominated by their respective parties, but did not succeed the presidents with whom they were elected, though Nixon was elected president eight years later.
Two vice presidents served under different presidents. George Clinton served under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, while John C. Calhoun served under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. In 1900, Adlai Stevenson I, who had earlier served as vice president under Grover Cleveland, ran for another term, this time as William Jennings Bryan's running mate. Charles W. Fairbanks, vice president under Theodore Roosevelt, sought unsuccessfully to return to office as Charles Evans Hughes' running mate in 1916.
Some former vice presidents have sought other offices after serving as vice president. Daniel D. Tompkins ran for Governor of New York in 1820 while serving as vice president under James Monroe. He lost to DeWitt Clinton, but was re-elected vice president. John C. Calhoun resigned as vice president to accept election as US Senator from South Carolina. Hannibal Hamlin, Andrew Johnson, Alben Barkley and Hubert H. Humphrey were all elected to the Senate after leaving office. Levi P. Morton, vice president under Benjamin Harrison, was elected Governor of New York after leaving office.
Adlai Stevenson I was narrowly defeated for Governor of Illinois in 1908. Richard Nixon unsuccessfully sought the governorship of California in 1962, nearly two years after leaving office as vice president and just over six years before becoming president. Walter Mondale ran unsuccessfully for president in 1984, served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996, and then sought unsuccessfully to return to the Senate in 2002. George H. W. Bush won the presidency, and his vice president, Dan Quayle, sought the Republican nomination in 2000.
Since 1977, former presidents and vice presidents who are elected or re-elected to the Senate are entitled to the largely honorific position of Deputy President pro tempore. So far, the only former vice president to have held this title is Hubert Humphrey following his return to the Senate. Walter Mondale would have been entitled to the position had his 2002 Senate bid been successful.
Under the terms of an 1886 Senate resolution, all former vice presidents are entitled to a portrait bust in the Senate wing of the United States Capitol, commemorating their service as presidents of the Senate. Dick Cheney is the most recent former vice president to be so honored.
Unlike former presidents, who receive a pension automatically regardless of their time in office, former vice presidents must reach pension eligibility by accumulating the appropriate time in federal service. Since 2008, former vice presidents are also entitled to Secret Service personal protection. Former vice presidents traditionally receive Secret Service protection for up to six months after leaving office, by order of the Secretary of Homeland Security, though this can be extended if the Secretary believes the level of threat is sufficient.
In 2008, a bill titled the "Former Vice President Protection Act" was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. It provides six-month Secret Service protection by law to a former vice president and family. According to the Department of Homeland Security, protection for former vice president Cheney has been extended numerous times because threats against him have not decreased since his leaving office.
Timeline of vice presidents
This is a graphical timeline listing of the .