The Constitution and the Role of Vice President

Don’t take my word for it . . . read it here.

Joe Biden referenced Article 1, stating that the office of the Vice-President is just a member of the Executive Branch.  He went on to contradict himself when he said that the Vice-President votes in Congress when the Senate is deadlocked.

Here’s the fact.  From the Constitution:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Biden was right.  The Vice-President does vote in the Senate.  This means that when the Vice-President votes to break ties in the Senate, He (or hopefully She) is part of Congress (the Legislative branch).

Here’s further support for that statement – straight from the Constitution.

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

Does it need to be more clear?  The Vice-President is part of the Senate – part of the Legislature.

Finally Article 3:

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Note that the word VICE is missing.  The executive power shall be vested not in the Vice-President but the PRESIDENT.  As much as it might pain Senator Biden, it seems that Governor Palin and Vice-President Cheney know a little more about the constitution than him.

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6 Responses to The Constitution and the Role of Vice President

  1. Kristin says:

    You’re quite wrong. It’s the President pro tempore who presides over the Senate, not the Vice President. The only function of the Vice President is to break a tie vote. And that’s it. Otherwise, he or she works in the Executive Branch with the President.

    Clause 4 of Article I, Section 3 states: The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

    It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

    As President of the Senate (Article I, Section 3), 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 not use his or her 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.

    You can’t have the same person in both the legislative and executive branch. You might as well give total power to the President–and that’s why Biden called Cheney “dangerous” for attempting to expand the role of VP to that extent.

    If the Vice President were in fact the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, he’d be fourth in the line of succession behind the Speaker of the House.

  2. fortyfour says:

    Actually, I’m quite right and you prove it. As you state Article I says the VP is the President of the Senate. No vote does not mean he is not part of the Legislative branch. The VP presides over the senate.

    Yes, I am quite certain that there is a ‘strong convention’ that the VP does not act in a partisan manner when presiding over the senate. BUT, ‘strong convention’ is not part of the constitution, nor, does it preclude the VP’s role in the legislature.

    You continue to support my position when you say, “You can’t have the same person in both the legislative and executive branch.” Ask yourself some simple questions. Who is the President of the Senate? THE VP. If the President of the Senate is part of the Executive Branch, then does not the Executive Branch preside over the Senate? Of course it doesn’t. The VP is part of the Legislative Branch.

    Originally, the VP was elected separately from the President. I believe this sublety is what Cheney is operating under. Once elected, he is not serving at the the will of the President, he is duly elected by the American Electoral College. And in that, he is correct.

    You may make a better argument for why Cheney has not served President Bush very well. He has run off competent advisers and he has prevented access of those with differing views. That, I will agree with.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Please stop in again!

  3. Dale says:

    Kristin is more right than you give credit for. Our founding fathers gave the VP the “casting vote” because they didn’t think it was a good idea just having the VP be a “back-up” body for the President who actually holds the “power” of the Executive Branch as derived from the Constitution. The title “President of the Senate” is merely a title granted to the presiding officer of the Senate…it doesn’t make them a member of the Legislative Branch, it is just a functional role in support of the Legislative Branch. The VP is actually a member of the Executive Branch – the VP receives his/her annual operating budget through the Executive Branch; the VP’s schedule and staff are also provided by the Executive Branch; the VP is not voted into office by the people of the United States as members of Congress are, but rather by Electors, nor is the VP elected by the Senators; the VP can not debate on the floor or vote on any legislation…they can only offer the “Casting Vote” in the event of a tie; nor are they supposed to, by convention, try to pursuade or use their bully pulpit to coerse a vote on any legislation; other than issuing the “casting vote” none of the other traditional duties of the VP have any real significance (but nobody told Cheney that which is what gets Joe Biden’s hair to stand up on end).

    The very accomplished, capable, and intelligent Senator Biden did indeed make an unfortunate gaffe when he said the “role” of the VP was found in the Executive Branch of the Constitution. That was just a slip of the tongue, a momentary lapse, much like mine when I defended his gaffe from my memory of the Constitution and understanding of how our government is run. Instead of starting my rebuttal to the article your mom sent me with “Only Article 1, Section 3, Clause 4…blah, blah, blah” Instead, I should have started with: “Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 ONLY defines the role of the Vice President….blah, blah, blah.” Hindsight is indeed 20/20. I now understand the confusion and why some Conservatives are jumping on Biden for his technical gaffe. Yes, it is true that the “role” of the VP is spelled out in writing under the Legislative Branch, but the actual position and powers of the VP are extended, executed and supported from and by the Executive Branch.

    I’ve included some narrative from the history of the US Senate posted on the US Senate website as well as a chart below that was published by the US Government Printing Office (and on their website) if there is still any confusion.

    “President of the Senate

    The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote unless they be equally divided.
    [U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3, clause 4]

    On September 4, 1787, the term, “vice president,” appeared for the first time at the Constitutional Convention. The Committee of Unfinished Portions reported a method of electing the president and vice president, and recommended that the vice president be the “ex-officio President of the Senate.” Although delegates passed the latter measure three days later, few understood the extent of the vice president’s duties, not having a similar position in their own states. New York’s constitution, however, contained the clear precedent: “the lieutenant-governor shall, by virtue of his office, be president of the senate, and, upon an equal division, have a casting voice in their decisions, but not vote on any other occasion.” New York, then, is aptly credited for the establishment of the vice president’s office in both its executive and senatorial functions.

    Convention delegates first considered the selection of the Senate’s presiding officer after the Committee of Detail presented a draft of the Constitution on August 6. Article III, section 4 stated, “The Senate shall choose its own President,” while another article designated the president of the Senate as the executive’s immediate successor. Both provisions passed without dissent. Later in the month, however, increasing support for a separation of powers motivated the Committee of Unfinished Portions to create the electoral college system, rather than have the national legislature elect the president. The committee also suggested that a vice president succeed the executive in the event of a vacancy in that position, but would otherwise serve as the president of the Senate, casting votes only to break a tie. On September 7, Elbridge Gerry and George Mason spoke against the proposed measure, believing that it conflicted with the goal to keep the executive and legislative departments separate and distinct. Roger Sherman defended the clause. “If the vice-President were not to be President of the Senate, he would be without employment, and some member by being made President must be deprived of his vote.” Evidently, most delegates agreed with Sherman’s reasoning, and they passed the measure by an 8 to 2 vote.

    In The Federalist, No. 68, New York delegate Alexander Hamilton explained the necessity of the vice president’s Senate position. To secure definitive resolutions, the Senate’s president must be able to cast tie-breaking votes, yet be denied a vote at all other times. Therefore, the Senate’s presiding officer must not be a member of the Senate, nor should a senator be next in line for the presidency, since the president’s successor should be chosen in the same manner as the president. * * * * *

  4. fortyfour says:

    Hello Dale, thanks for stopping in. And thanks for the great post. Show me though, in Article 3 where it defines that the Vice President is part of the executive branch. I don’t think you will be able to do that.

    If the VP was not part of the Legislative Branch, how could he ever vote in the Senate?

    Again, Senate convention and supporting documentation do not replace the Constitution.

  5. Dave says:

    Both are right. The VP is a member of the legislative branch. But only to break a tie, which makes sense. If there is a tie, then someone else needs to be able to give a vote to prevent a form of grid-lock. This could speed things along. So technically, your right. But, that is the extent of the VP’s role. He doesn’t set the agenda or calender. The VP doesn’t have any power or authority outside of that tie-breaker vote, which rarely ever happens. The assumption of authority within the Senate is a stretch, and is very dangerous. Our founding fathers fought to free themselves from the control of a king. Why would they essentially put themselves back into the same scenario?

  6. Vince says:

    Hi Dave,

    I’m just stating what is in the articles of the constitution. And your argument of “Our founding fathers fought to free themselves from the control of a king. Why would they essentially put themselves back into the same scenario?” supports the what the constitution did.

    Separate the role of Vice President from the executive branch. Remember that originally, the President and Vice-President did not have to be from the same party. And often, the role of VP was only a figure head – unless he got to break the tie.

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