Vice President of the United States

The Vice President of the United States is the person who is "a heartbeat from the presidency": he becomes the President of the United States upon the death, resignation, or removal by impeachment of the President. Should the Vice President be unable to assume the Presidency, next in line is the Speaker of the House, followed by the President pro tem of the Senate. (If none of these individuals is able to become President, succession proceeds through the Cabinet. See: United States Presidential line of succession.) The Vice President also serves as the President of the Senate.

The Vice President and his family live at Number One Observatory Circle, on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory in Washington, DC.

Constitutional requirements

The Vice President must have the same constitutional qualifications as the President and cannot come from the same state. (In fact, this second requirement is not a constitutional requirement. What the Constitution provides is that if the candidates for President and Vice President come from the same state, the electors from that state could not 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 the second 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.

As President of the Senate (Article I, Section 3), the vice president oversees procedural matters, and the ability to cast a vote in the event of a tie. There is a strong convention within the United States 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.

Role of the Vice President

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.

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.

Historically, the office of Vice President has been viewed as political suicide. John Nance Garner famously described the office as "not worth a pitcher of warm spit." 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.

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 made by the Presidential candidate alone and often is done to create balance on a ticket. It is common for the Vice Presidential candidate will come from a different region than the President or appeal to a slightly different ideological part of the party.

Changes with the 25th Amendment

Since the adoption of the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1967, "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." (Prior to that time, if the Vice President died in office, resign, or succeeded to the Presidency, the office of Vice President remained vacant until the next Presidential election.)

Gerald Ford was the first Vice President selected by this method, after the resignation of Spiro Agnew; after succeeding to the Presidency, Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President.

The 25th Amendment also provides means for the Vice President to temporarily 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 then 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

1 John Adams 1789 1797 Federalist
2 Thomas Jefferson 1797 1801 Democratic-Republican
3 Aaron Burr 1801 1805 Democratic-Republican
4 George Clinton¹ 1805 1812 Democratic-Republican
5 Elbridge Gerry¹ 1813 1814 Democratic-Republican
6 Daniel D. Tompkins 1817 1825 Democratic-Republican
7 John Caldwell Calhoun² 1825 1832 Democratic-Republican
8 Martin Van Buren 1833 1837 Democrat
9 Richard Mentor Johnson 1837 1841 Democrat
10 John Tyler³ 1841 1841 Whig
11 George Mifflin Dallas 1845 1849 Democrat
12 Millard Fillmore³ 1849 1850 Whig
13 William Rufus DeVane King¹ 1853 1853 Democrat
14 John Cabell Breckinridge 1857 1861 Democrat
15 Hannibal Hamlin 1861 1865 Republican
16 Andrew Johnson³ 1865 1865 Democrat
17 Schuyler Colfax 1869 1873 Republican
18 Henry Wilson¹ 1873 1875 Republican
19 William Almon Wheeler 1877 1881 Republican
20 Chester Alan Arthur³ 1881 1881 Republican
21 Thomas Andrews Hendricks¹ 1885 1885 Democrat
22 Levi Parsons Morton 1889 1893 Republican
23 Adlai Ewing Stevenson 1893 1897 Democrat
24 Garret Augustus Hobart¹ 1897 1899 Republican
25 Theodore Roosevelt³ 1901 1901 Republican
26 Charles Warren Fairbanks 1905 1909 Republican
27 James Schoolcraft Sherman¹ 1909 1912 Republican
28 Thomas Riley Marshall 1913 1921 Democrat
29 John Calvin Coolidge, Jr³ 1921 1923 Republican
30 Charles Gates Dawes 1925 1929 Republican
31 Charles Curtis 1929 1933 Republican
32 John Nance Garner 1933 1941 Democrat
33 Henry Agard Wallace 1941 1945 Democrat
34 Harry S Truman³ 1945 1945 Democrat
35 Alben William Barkley 1949 1953 Democrat
36 Richard Milhous Nixon 1953 1961 Republican
37 Lyndon Baines Johnson³ 1961 1963 Democrat
38 Hubert Horatio Humphrey 1965 1969 Democrat
39 Spiro Theodore Agnew² 1969 1973 Republican
40 Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr³ 1973 1974 Republican
41 Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller 1974 1977 Republican
42 Walter Frederick Mondale 1977 1981 Democrat
43 George Herbert Walker Bush 1981 1989 Republican
44 James Danforth Quayle III 1989 1993 Republican
45 Albert Arnold Gore, Jr 1993 2001 Democrat
46 Richard Bruce Cheney 2001 - Republican

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

Seven Vice Presidents have died in office:

Two Vice Presidents have resigned from office:
  • John C. Calhoun resigned in 1832 to take a seat in the Senate, having been chosen to fill a vacancy.
  • Spiro Agnew resigned in 1973 while under investigation for accepting bribes in his previous position as governor of Maryland.

Nine Vice Presidents succeeded to the Presidency: Of those who succeeded above, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry S Truman, and Lyndon Johnson would later be re-elected in their own right as President.

Five Vice Presidents did not succeed to the Presidency but were later elected President in their own right:


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