The Vice President of the United States holds the second-highest position in the executive branch of the U.S. government, second only to the President. Unlike the president and members of Congress, Senate and the local government, the Vice President is indirectly elected into office. Presidential candidates choose their running mates, or VP picks, while campaigning for the presidency.
The Vice Presidency position is one of the least understood and often the most underappreciated positions in government. Let’s take a closer look at what responsibilities come along with this role and why the person who holds this position is so important.
What Responsibilities Does the Vice President Have?
The vice president is the first person in the presidential line of succession. If the president should resign, die or be removed from office, the vice president would take over his or her role.
The VP is also considered the president of the U.S. Senate. In this capacity, the VP only votes to break a tie. Supermajority rules have been implemented by Senate customs to diminish tie-breaking authority, but the VP can still influence legislation.
As pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment, the vice president also presides over joint Congress sessions to count the vote of the Electoral College.
Aside from their role as President of the Senate and the presidential succession, vice presidents have no constitutionally-directed functions. Scholars still debate as to whether the VP seat is truly a part of the executive or legislative branch of government. Only recently have VPs been assigned executive duties by either the president or Congress.
At one time, the vice president would preside over Senate meetings, but in modern times, VPs rarely get involved in the day-to-day matters of the Senate.
Aside from the VP’s tie-breaking role, no other significant responsibilities are given to the vice president. The VP is not permitted to participate in debate or address the Senate.
To be eligible for the seat, one must:
- Be at least 35 years of age
- Be a natural-born U.S. citizen
- Have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years
Why the Vice President’s Role Is So Important
While the vice president has few formal duties, he or she still plays an integral role in government. Without the VP, members of Congress and Senate would scramble to find a replacement should the president die, become incapacitated or be removed from office.
Vice presidents also take on many informal responsibilities. VPs often serve as spokesmen for the administration’s policies and an adviser to the president. Oftentimes, VPs are chosen to help balance the president. They may have a more moderate or extreme position on certain issues that may appeal to the American public.
Vice presidents often serve as a source of comfort and support for Americans. While their formal role may be limited, modern VPs often take on numerous responsibilities to help the administration implement beneficial policies. But perhaps what makes their role so important is the fact that they must stand by, ready to take over as president at the drop of a dime should the Commander in Chief suddenly become unable to carry out his or her duties.