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Vice President of the United States
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Vice President of the United States

The Vice President of the United States is the second highest executive official of the United States government, the person who is "a heartbeat from the presidency." As first in the presidential line of succession, the Vice President becomes the new President of the United States upon the death, resignation, or removal by impeachment and subsequent conviction of the President. Nine Vice Presidents have assumed the Presidency upon the death or resignation of the President.

Beyond this important role, the only duty required by the U.S. Constitution is that the Vice President serve as the President of the Senate. Since 1974, the official residence of the Vice President and his family has been Number One Observatory Circle, on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.

Table of contents
1 Constitutional requirements
2 Role of the Vice President
3 Succession and the 25th Amendment
4 Vice Presidents of the United States
5 Vice Presidential facts
6 Related articles
7 External links
8 Further reading

Constitutional requirements


John C. Calhoun
7th Vice President
(1825-1832)

To hold the office, the Vice President must satisfy the same constitutional qualifications as the President; that is, the Vice President must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least thirty-five years of age, and a resident of the United States for 14 years.

President of the Senate

As President of the Senate (Article I, Section 3), the Vice President oversees procedural matters and is given the ability to cast a vote in the event of a tie. There is a strong convention within the U.S. Senate that the Vice President not use his 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. In fact, the Vice President is constitutionally prevented from voting except in the case of ties. In practice, the Vice President rarely presides over day-to-day matters in the Senate; in his place, the Senate chooses a President pro tempore (or "president for a time") to preside in the absence of the Vice President.

One duty required of President of the Senate is presiding over the counting and presentation of the Presidential and Vice Presidential electoral votes by the U.S. Electoral College, in the presence of both houses of Congress, 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.

Election process

Under the U.S. Constitution, the electors of the U.S. Electoral College originally voted for two persons for President. 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 was in second place became Vice President. If no one received a majority of votes, then the U.S. House of Representatives would choose between the five highest vote-getters, with each state getting one vote. In such a case, the person who received the highest number of votes but was not chosen President would become Vice President. If there was ever a tie for second, then the U.S. Senate would choose the Vice President.


John C. Breckinridge
14th Vice President
(1857-1861)

The original plan, however, did not forsee the development of political parties. In 1796, for instance, Federalist John Adams came in first, and Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson came second. Thus, the President and Vice President were from different parties. An even greater problem occurred in the election of 1800, when Democratic-Republicans Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied the vote. While it was intended that Jefferson was the Presidential contender and Burr was the Vice Presidential one, the electors did not and could not differentiate between the two under the system of the time. After 35 unsuccessful votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, Thomas Jefferson finally won on the 36th ballot and Burr became Vice President.

The tumultuous affair led to the adoption of Amendment XII 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 Vice President was no longer the second choice for President.

The Constitution also provides that if the candidates for President and Vice President come from the same state, the electors from that state cannot vote for both. This might result in the Vice Presidential candidate receiving insufficiently many electoral votes for election even if the Presidential candidate is elected. In practice, this requirement is easily circumvented by having the Vice President change the state of residency as was done by Dick Cheney who changed his legal residency from Texas to Wyoming in order to serve as Vice President for George W. Bush.

Formally, the Vice-Presidential candidate is nominated by the party convention. However, it has long been the custom that the Vice-Presidential candidate has been effectively named by the Presidential candidate. Often, the Presidential candidate will name a Vice-Presidential candidate to bring geographic or ideological balance to the ticket.

Role of the Vice President

Growth of the office

For much of its existence, the office of Vice President was seen as a little more than a minor position. John Adams, the first Vice President, described it as "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Even 150 years later, 32nd Vice President John Nance Garner famously described the office as "not worth a pitcher of warm spit." Others have lamented that "A mother had two sons - one went to sea, and one became vice-president - neither was heard from again". The natural stepping stone to the Presidency was long considered to be the Secretary of State. It has only been fairly recently that this notion has reversed; indeed, the notion was still very much alive when Harry S. Truman became the Vice President for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

For many years, the Vice President was given few responsibilities. After John Adams attended a meeting of the President's Cabinet in 1791, no Vice President did so again until Thomas R. Marshall stood in for President Woodrow Wilson while he travelled to Europe in 1918 and 1919. Marshall's successor, Calvin Coolidge was invited to meetings by President Warren G. Harding. The next Vice President, Charles G. Dawes, was not invited after 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, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt raised the stature of the office by renewing the practice of inviting the Vice President to cabinet meetings, which has been maintained by every President since. Still, Roosevelt kept his last Vice President Harry S. Truman uninformed on some national security issues. As a result, Truman was unaware of the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop nuclear weapons when he succeeded to the Presidency upon Roosevelt's death in 1945 while World War II was still raging. The necessity of keeping Vice Presidents informed on national security issues became clear, and Congress made the Vice President one of four statutory members of the National Security Council in 1949.

In October 1952, Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson sought to magnify the importance of the number two position in the executive branch when he said, "The Republican Vice Presidential Candidate ... asks you to place him a heartbeat from the Presidency," referring to Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice presidential running mate, Richard Nixon.

Once elected, President Eisenhower raised the stature of the Vice Presidency further when he ordered Vice President Nixon to preside at Cabinet meetings in his absence.

Modern role

The formal powers and role of the Vice President with a healthy, functioning President are limited to the Presidency of the Senate, including a casting vote in the event of a deadlock. This was important in the first half of 2001, as the Senators were divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats and thus Dick Cheney's casting vote gave the Republicans the Senate majority.

on the White House lawn.'']]

Their other functions are as a spokesperson for the administration's policy, as an adviser to the President, and as a symbol of American concern or support. Their influence in this role depends almost entirely on the characteristics of the particular administration. Cheney, for instance, is widely regarded as one of George W. Bush's closest confidantes. Often, Vice Presidents will take harder-line stands on issues to ensure the support of the party's base while deflecting partisan criticism away from the President. Other times their primary role seems to be meeting heads of state or attending state funerals in other countries, at times when the administration wishes to demonstrate concern or support without having to actually send the President himself to do so.

Normally, candidates for President will name a candidate for Vice President when they are assured of the party's nomination. Since the Presidential candidate is now generally known before the party convention, this announcement is now typically made in the first day or so of the party convention. Generally, the choice of running mate is ultimately made by the Presidential candidate alone (although with considerable counsel from advisors) and often is done to create balance on a ticket. It is common for the Vice Presidential candidate to come from a different region of the country than the President or appeal to a slightly different ideological wing of the party.

In recent years, the Vice Presidency has frequently been used to launch bids for the Presidency. Since 1960, only two presidential elections, the 1980 election and 1996 election, did not feature an incumbent or former Vice President as a major candidate. The election of 1968, provided the option of two men who had served as Vice President, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.

Succession and the 25th Amendment

The U.S. Constitution provides that should the President die or become disabled while in office, the "powers and duties" of the office are transferred to the Vice President. It remained unclear as to whether the Vice President actually became the new President or merely 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 should gain the full Presidential powers and title. Despite many calls against it, Tyler took the oath of office, becoming the tenth President. Tyler's claim was not challenged legally, and so the precedent of full succession was established.

The Constitution still left several questions unanswered, however. If the Vice President died in office, resigned, or succeeded to the Presidency, there was no process for selecting a replacement, so the office of Vice President remained vacant until the next Presidential election. Additionally, the shooting and hospitalization of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 led to the question of who has the power to declare that the President is unable to discharge his duties, should he become incapacitated. This led to the ratification of Amendment XXV to the U.S. Constitution in 1967.

The 25th Amendment provides that "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 Spiro Agnew in 1974; after succeeding to the Presidency, Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President.

The amendment also provides means for the Vice President to become Acting President upon the temporary disability of the President. This procedure has been activated twice: once on July 13, 1985, when Ronald Reagan underwent surgery to remove cancerous polyps from his colon, and again on June 29, 2002, when President George W. Bush underwent a colonoscopy requiring sedation.

Prior to this amendment, Vice President Richard Nixon replaced President Eisenhower on an informal basis three times for a period of weeks each time when Eisenhower was ill.

Vice Presidents of the United States

# Name Took Office Left Office Party Administration(s)
1 John Adams 1789 1797 Federalist George Washington
2 Thomas Jefferson 1797 1801 Democratic-Republican John Adams
3 Aaron Burr 1801 1805 Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson
4 George Clinton¹ 1805 1812 Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson and James Madison
5 Elbridge Gerry¹ 1813 1814 Democratic-Republican James Madison
6 Daniel D. Tompkins 1817 1825 Democratic-Republican James Monroe
7 John Caldwell Calhoun² 1825 1832 Democratic-Republican John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson
8 Martin Van Buren 1833 1837 Democrat Andrew Jackson
9 Richard Mentor Johnson 1837 1841 Democrat Martin Van Buren
10 John Tyler³ 1841 1841 Whig William Henry Harrison
11 George Mifflin Dallas 1845 1849 Democrat James K. Polk
12 Millard Fillmore³ 1849 1850 Whig Zachary Taylor
13 William Rufus de Vane King¹ 1853 1853 Democrat Franklin Pierce
14 John Cabell Breckinridge 1857 1861 Democrat James Buchanan
15 Hannibal Hamlin 1861 1865 Republican Abraham Lincoln
16 Andrew Johnson³ 1865 1865 Democrat Abraham Lincoln
17 Schuyler Colfax 1869 1873 Republican Ulysses S. Grant
18 Henry Wilson¹ 1873 1875 Republican Ulysses S. Grant
19 William Almon Wheeler 1877 1881 Republican Rutherford B. Hayes
20 Chester Alan Arthur³ 1881 1881 Republican James Garfield
21 Thomas Andrews Hendricks¹ 1885 1885 Democrat Grover Cleveland
22 Levi Parsons Morton 1889 1893 Republican Benjamin Harrison
23 Adlai Ewing Stevenson 1893 1897 Democrat Grover Cleveland
24 Garret Augustus Hobart¹ 1897 1899 Republican William McKinley
25 Theodore Roosevelt³ 1901 1901 Republican William McKinley
26 Charles Warren Fairbanks 1905 1909 Republican Theodore Roosevelt
27 James Schoolcraft Sherman¹ 1909 1912 Republican William Howard Taft
28 Thomas Riley Marshall 1913 1921 Democrat Woodrow Wilson
29 John Calvin Coolidge Jr³ 1921 1923 Republican Warren G. Harding
30 Charles Gates Dawes 1925 1929 Republican Calvin Coolidge
31 Charles Curtis 1929 1933 Republican Herbert Hoover
32 John Nance Garner 1933 1941 Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt
33 Henry Agard Wallace 1941 1945 Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt
34 Harry S. Truman³ 1945 1945 Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt
35 Alben William Barkley 1949 1953 Democrat Harry S. Truman
36 Richard Milhous Nixon 1953 1961 Republican Dwight Eisenhower
37 Lyndon Baines Johnson³ 1961 1963 Democrat John F. Kennedy
38 Hubert Horatio Humphrey II 1965 1969 Democrat Lyndon Johnson
39 Spiro Theodore Agnew² 1969 1973 Republican Richard Nixon
40 Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr³ 1973 1974 Republican Richard Nixon
41 Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller 1974 1977 Republican Gerald Ford
42 Walter Frederick Mondale 1977 1981 Democrat Jimmy Carter
43 George Herbert Walker Bush 1981 1989 Republican Ronald Reagan
44 James Danforth Quayle III 1989 1993 Republican George H. W. Bush
45 Albert Arnold Gore Jr 1993 2001 Democrat Bill Clinton
46 Richard Bruce Cheney 2001 - Republican George W. Bush
Notes: ¹Died in office. ²Resigned. ³Succeeded to the Presidency.

Prior to the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, no provision existed for the selection of a Vice President in the event of a vacancy in the office (by death, resignation, or succession to the Presidency). Consequently, the position remained vacant until the next election and inauguration.

Vice Presidential facts

Two Vice Presidents served under two different Presidents:

Seven Vice Presidents have died in office: Two Vice Presidents have resigned from office: Nine Vice Presidents succeeded to the Presidency: Of those who succeeded above, four would later be elected in their own right: Five Vice Presidents did not succeed to the Presidency but were later elected President in their own right: Two Vice Presidents have officially acted as President due to presidential incapacity under the 25th Amendment:

Related articles

External links

Further reading