Vice President of the United States

For a list of office-holders, see List of Vice Presidents of the United States.
Vice President of the
United States of America

Joe Biden

since January 20, 2009
Executive branch of the U.S. government
Office of the Vice President
Style Mr. Vice President
The Honorable
Mr. President
(When presiding over Senate)
His Excellency
(Diplomatic, outside the U.S.)
Member of Cabinet
National Security Council
President of the U.S. Senate
Residence Number One Observatory Circle
Seat Washington, D.C., U.S.
Appointer Electoral College
Term length 4 years
Constituting instrument U.S. Constitution
Inaugural holder John Adams
(April 21, 1789)
Formation March 4, 1789 (1789-03-04)
Succession First in the Presidential Line of Succession
Salary $230,700
Website Vice President Joe Biden

The Vice President of the United States (VPOTUS) is a constitutional officer in the legislative branch of the Federal government as President of the Senate under Article One, Section Three, Paragraph Four of the United States Constitution.[1] The vice president is also a statutory member of the National Security Council under the National Security Act of 1947 and under Amendment XXV, Clause One of the United States Constitution is the second-highest-ranking official in the presidential line of succession in the executive branch of the United States, after the President. 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.[2] In the presidential line of succession, the vice president is the first person who would normally ascend to the presidency upon the death, resignation, or removal of the president.[3] 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,[1] 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.[1][4][5] Additionally, pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment, the vice president presides over the joint session of Congress when it convenes to count the vote of the Electoral College.[2]

While the vice president's only constitutionally prescribed functions aside from presidential succession relate to their role as President of the Senate, the office is commonly viewed as a component of the executive branch of the federal government. The United States 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.[6][7][8][9] 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, though such activities are only recent historical developments.[6]

On January 20, 2009, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 47th Vice President of the United States, and was re-elected to a second term in 2012. Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, the Vice President-elect since the 2016 election, is scheduled to succeed Biden on January 20, 2017.


The creation of the office of vice president was a direct consequence of the creation of the Electoral College. Delegates to the Philadelphia Convention gave each state a number of presidential electors equal to that state's combined share of House and Senate seats. Yet the delegates were worried that each elector would only favor his own state's favorite son candidate, resulting in deadlocked elections that would produce no winners. To counter this potential difficulty, the delegates gave each presidential elector two votes, requiring that at least one of their votes be for a candidate from outside the elector's state; they also mandated that the winner of an election must obtain an absolute majority of the total number of electors. The delegates expected that each elector's second vote would go to a statesman of national character.[10]

Fearing that electors might throw away their second vote to bolster their favorite son's chance of winning, however, the Philadelphia delegates specified that the runner-up would become vice president. Creating this new office imposed a political cost on discarded votes and forced electors to cast their second ballot.[10]

The process for selecting the Vice President was modified by the Twelth Amendment. Electors cast distinct votes for President and Vice President, instead of two votes for President. This was to prevent the mishaps of the 1796 and 1800 elections.

Roles of the vice president

The Constitution limits the formal powers and role of vice president to becoming president,[11][12] 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.[13][14]

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 and Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote gave the Republicans the Senate majority.

Regular duties

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 twenty-nine tie-breaking votes, a record no successor except John C. Calhoun ever threatened. 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."[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

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

John Tyler was the first vice president to assume the presidency following the death of his predecessor. In doing so, he insisted that he was the president, not merely an acting president.

The U.S. Constitution provides that should the president die, become disabled while in office or removed from office, the "powers and duties" of the office are transferred to the vice president. Initially, it was unclear whether the vice president actually 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 tenth President. Tyler's claim 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.

President Lyndon Johnson is sworn in, following the assassination of President John Kennedy.

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.

Informal roles

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 first presidential election to include neither the incumbent president nor the incumbent vice president on a major party ticket since 1952 came in 2008 when President George W. Bush had already served two terms and Vice President Cheney chose not to run. Richard Nixon is also the only non-sitting vice president to be elected president, as well as the only person to be elected president and vice president twice each.

Selection process


John Adams, the first Vice President of the United States

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."[18] 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 such limitation as to 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.[20][21] The issue has never been tested in practice.

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.

Residency limitation

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 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.

Nominating process

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, Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro, obstinately to set a precedent (which was supported by many Democrats including House Speaker Tip O'Neill), ending up Ferraro's nomination 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. Sarah Palin's selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee was considered a risky gamble to shake up John McCain's lagging 2008 presidential campaign, obstinately to woo women voters disappointed by Hillary Clinton's defeat in the Democratic presidential primaries; ending up Palin was widely perceived as having hurt McCain when her interviews with Katie Couric led to concerns about her fitness for the presidency.[22]

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 Delano Roosevelt in 1940.[23] 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 by 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".[24][25] Some suggested that it was a ploy by the Clinton campaign to denigrate Obama as less qualified for the presidency.[26] 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.[27]

Election, oath, and tenure

Map of the United States showing the number of electoral votes allocated following the 2010 census to each state for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 presidential elections; it also notes that Maine and Nebraska distribute electoral by way of the Congressional District Method. 270 electoral votes are required for a majority out of 538 votes possible.

Vice presidents are elected indirectly in the United States. A number of electors, collectively known as the Electoral College, officially select the 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.

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, J— B—, 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.[28]

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 similar 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 renew the vice president's tenure. A vice president could even serve under different administrations, as George Clinton and John C. Calhoun have done.

Original election process and reform

Four vice presidents: L-R, outgoing President Lyndon B. Johnson (the 37th Vice President), incoming President Richard Nixon (36th), (Everett Dirksen administering oath), incoming Vice President Spiro Agnew (39th), and outgoing Vice President Hubert Humphrey (38th), January 20, 1969

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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31]

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.[18] 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.[32] Further, the language requiring an absolute majority of Senate votes precludes the sitting vice president from breaking any tie which might occur.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] The vice president must serve a minimum of two years to qualify for a pension.[36]

Since 1974, the official residence of the vice president and their family has been Number One Observatory Circle, on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.


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 occasionsas 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[37]
Dates Length
in days
Reason Next Vice President
after vacancy
March 4, 1789April 21, 1789 48 Logistical delays as the new Federal Government began operations. John Adams, following his inauguration.
April 20, 1812March 4, 1813 318 George Clinton died. Elbridge Gerry, following election of 1812.
November 23, 1814March 4, 1817 832 Elbridge Gerry died. Daniel D. Tompkins, following election of 1816.
December 28, 1832March 4, 1833 66 John C. Calhoun resigned. Martin Van Buren, following election of 1832.
April 4, 1841March 4, 1845 1,430 John Tyler succeeded to presidency. George M. Dallas, following election of 1844.
July 9, 1850March 4, 1853 969 Millard Fillmore succeeded to presidency. William R. King, following election of 1852.
April 18, 1853March 4, 1857 1,416 William R. King died. John C. Breckinridge, following election of 1856.
April 15, 1865March 4, 1869 1,419 Andrew Johnson succeeded to presidency. Schuyler Colfax, following election of 1868.
November 22, 1875March 4, 1877 468 Henry Wilson died. William A. Wheeler, following election of 1876.
September 19, 1881March 4, 1885 1,262 Chester A. Arthur succeeded to presidency. Thomas A. Hendricks, following election of 1884.
November 25, 1885March 4, 1889 1,195 Thomas A. Hendricks died. Levi P. Morton, following election of 1888.
November 21, 1899March 4, 1901 468 Garret Hobart died. Theodore Roosevelt, following election of 1900.
September 14, 1901March 4, 1905 1,267 Theodore Roosevelt succeeded to presidency. Charles W. Fairbanks, following election of 1904.
October 30, 1912March 4, 1913 125 James S. Sherman died. Thomas R. Marshall, following election of 1912.
August 2, 1923March 4, 1925 580 Calvin Coolidge succeeded to presidency. Charles G. Dawes, following election of 1924.
April 12, 1945January 20, 1949 1,379 Harry S. Truman succeeded to presidency. Alben W. Barkley, following election of 1948.
November 22, 1963January 20, 1965 425 Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded to presidency. Hubert Humphrey, following election of 1964.
October 10, 1973December 6, 1973 57 Spiro Agnew resigned. Gerald Ford, following confirmation by Congress.
August 9, 1974December 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[38]
Though prominent as a Missouri Senator, Harry Truman had been vice president only three months when he became president; he was never informed of Franklin Roosevelt's war or postwar policies while vice president.
Vice President Dick Cheney met with Vice President-elect Joe Biden at Number One Observatory Circle on November 13, 2008, representing a transition between vice presidencies.

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."[38] 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."[39] Harry Truman, who also served as vice president under Roosevelt, said that the office was as "useful as a cow's fifth teat."[40]

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."[41] 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.[42]

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."[43] 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."[44] 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.[45] 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."[46] 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 at the start of the second term on the Court-packing issue and became Roosevelt's leading political enemy. In 1937, Garner became the first vice president to be sworn in 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.

Garner's successor, Henry Wallace who was elected in 1940, was given major responsibilities during the war, but he moved further to the left than the Democratic Party and the rest of the Roosevelt administration. For the 1944 election, Roosevelt remained on the ticket to run for re-election as president despite concerns over his health, nonetheless the Democratic Party insiders were certain that the vice presidential candidate would most likely succeed to the presidency, and so Wallace did not secure renomination as vice president as Harry Truman was selected instead at the convention. Roosevelt kept his last vice president, Harry Truman, uninformed on all war and postwar issues, such as the atomic bomb, leading Truman to remark, wryly, that the job of the vice president was to "go to weddings and funerals." Following Roosevelt's death just 82 days after the start of his term and Truman's ascension to the presidency, the need to keep 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 1947, Truman signed legislation to place the Speaker of the House, Joseph William Martin Jr., next in line of succession after the vice president, since the vice presidency was vacant between 1945-49.

Richard Nixon reinvented the office of vice president. He had the attention of the media and the Republican party, when Dwight Eisenhower ordered 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.[47] After his tenure, and during the 2008 presidential campaign, both vice presidential candidates, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, stated that the office had expanded too much under Cheney's tenure and both had planned to reduce the role to simply being an adviser to the president.[48]

Post–vice presidency

Living former U.S. Vice Presidents pictured, in order of service.

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. Richard Nixon, John C. Breckinridge, Hubert Humphrey and Al Gore were all nominated by their respective parties, but failed to 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 the modern era, Adlai Stevenson I became the first former vice president to seek election with a different running mate, running in 1900 with William Jennings Bryan after serving under Bryan's rival, Grover Cleveland. (He was also narrowly defeated for Governor of Illinois in 1908.) 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.

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. Al Gore also ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2000, turning to environmental advocacy afterward. Cheney had previously explored the possibility of running for president before serving as vice president, but chose not to run for president after his two terms as vice president.

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 president are also entitled to Secret Service personal protection.[49] 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.[50] In 2008, a bill titled the "Former Vice President Protection Act" was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush.[51] 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.[52]

Timeline of vice presidents

This is a graphical timeline listing of the Vice Presidents of the United States.

See also

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 U.S. Const. art. I, § 3, cl. 4.
  2. 1 2 U.S. Const. amend. XII, § 1.
  3. U.S. Const. amend. XXV, § 1.
  4. "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  5. Oleszek, Walter J. CRS7-5700 Super-Majority Votes in the Senate Congressional Research Service, April 12, 2010
  6. 1 2 Goldstein, Joel K. (1995). "The New Constitutional Vice Presidency". Wake Forest Law Review. Winston Salem, NC: Wake Forest Law Review Association, Inc. 30: 505.
  7. Reynolds, Glenn Harlan (2007). "Is Dick Cheney Unconstitutional?". Northwestern University Law Review Colloquy. Chicago: Northwestern University School of Law. 102: 110.
  8. Garvey, Todd (2008). "A Constitutional Anomaly: Safeguarding Confidential National Security Information Within the Enigma That Is the American Vice Presidency". William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal. Williamsburg: Publications Council of the College of William and Mary. 17: 565.
  9. Subhawong, Aryn (2008). "A Realistic Look at the Vice Presidency: Why Dick Cheney Is An "Entity Within the Executive Branch"". Saint Louis University Law Journal. Saint Louis: Saint Louis University School of Law. 53: 281.
  10. 1 2 Albert, Richard (2005). "The Evolving Vice Presidency". Temple Law Review. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education. 78: 811, at 816–19.
  11. Who Is Mike Pence Again? on YouTube
  12. Draper, Robert (July 20, 2016). "How Donald Trump Picked His Running Mate". Nytimes. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
  13. 50 U.S.C. § 402
  14. 20 U.S.C. § 42
  15. "President Dawes," Time Magazine, December 14, 1924.
  16. 3 U.S.C. § 15
  17. "St. Petersburg Times, January 7, 1969, p.6-A". January 7, 1969. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  18. 1 2 Wikisource:Additional amendments to the United States Constitution#Amendment XII
  19. See: U.S. Const. art. II, §1, cl. 5; see also, U.S. Const. amend. XII, §4.
  20. See: Peabody, Bruce G.; Gant, Scott E. (1999). "The Twice and Future President: Constitutional Interstices and the Twenty-Second Amendment". Minnesota Law Review. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Law Review. 83: 565.
  21. See: Albert, Richard (2005). "The Evolving Vice Presidency". Temple Law Review. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education. 78: 811, at 856–59.
  22. Nagourney, Adam (September 30, 2008). "Concerns About Palin's Readiness as Big Test Nears". New York Times. p. A16. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  23. The "Veepstakes": Strategic Choice in Presidential Running Mate Selection, by Lee Sigelman and Paul J. Wahlbeck, American Political Science Review, December 1997
  24. Stratton, Daniel Nasaw Allegra; agencies (March 11, 2008). "Obama scoffs at Clinton's vice-presidential hint" via The Guardian.
  25. "Obama rejects being Clinton's No. 2 -".
  26. "Trump throws 2008 Obama ad in Clinton's face".
  27. Freedland, Jonathan (June 4, 2008). "US elections: Jimmy Carter tells Barack Obama not to pick Hillary Clinton as running mate" via The Guardian.
  28. See: 5 U.S.C. § 3331; see also: Standing Rules of the Senate: Rule III
  29. Wikisource:Constitution of the United States of America#Section 1 2
  30. "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 30, 2005.
  31. "Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved July 30, 2005.
  32. "RL30804: The Electoral College: An Overview and Analysis of Reform Proposals, L. Paige Whitaker and Thomas H. Neale, January 16, 2001". Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved August 26, 2010.
  33. Longley, Lawrence D.; Pierce, Neal R. (1999). "The Electoral College Primer 2000". New Haven, CT: Yale University Press: 13.
  34. "Current salary information". Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  36. Emily Yoffe (January 3, 2001). "Pension information". Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  37. "Vice President of the United States (President of the Senate)". United States Senate. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
  38. 1 2 "John Adams". Retrieved August 9, 2011.
  39. "John Nance Garner quotes". Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  40. "Nation: Some Day You'll Be Sitting in That Chair". 29 November 1963. Retrieved 3 October 2014.
  41. "A heartbeat away from the presidency: vice presidential trivia". Case Western Reserve University. October 4, 2004. Retrieved September 12, 2008.
  42. Greenberg, David (2007). Calvin Coolidge. Macmillan. pp. 40–41. ISBN 0-8050-6957-7.
  43. Binkley, Wilfred Ellsworth; Moos, Malcolm Charles (1949). A Grammar of American Politics: The National Government. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 265.
  44. "Garret Hobart". Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  45. Harold C. Relyea (February 13, 2001). "The Vice Presidency: Evolution of the Modern Office, 1933–2001" (PDF). Congressional Research Service.
  46. "U.S. Senate Web page on Charles G. Dawes, 30th Vice President (1925–1929)". Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  47. Kenneth T. Walsh (October 3, 2003). "Dick Cheney is the most powerful vice president in history. Is that good?". U.S. News and World Report. Archived from the original on February 5, 2011. Retrieved September 13, 2015.
  48. "Full Vice Presidential Debate with Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden". YouTube. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
  49. "Internet Public Library: FARQs". Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  50. "LARRY KING LIVE: Interview with Al, Tipper Gore". CNN. Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  51. "Former Vice President Protection Act of 2008". Retrieved August 9, 2009.
  52. "President Barack Obama authorizes extended Secret Service guard for former VP Dick Cheney". Daily News. New York. July 21, 2009.

Further reading

External links

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