The Politico reported recently that the Democrat majority intends to “restore” the “proper” role of the vice president once Obama is sworn into office. They claim that they will somehow roll back the power that Cheney “stole” from Congress and that Biden will not be allowed as much leeway as Cheney was.
Of course, it’s all well and good that what the vice president can or cannot do is reassessed from time to time. It is certainly up to each administration how to use its vice president and, to a certain degree, for Congress to assist the administration to set that role. Many vice presidents have had almost no role at all in the administration, still others have had a little while a few have comparatively had a lot of powers and duties.
So, outside of the Constitutionally prescribed role for the vp, it is perfectly in line with tradition and law for an administration to decide how much power its vp will reasonably have and what duties he will perform.
But, some of the quotes seem to show that Joe Biden himself has no idea what the Constitution says about the vice president.
Asked about the incumbent’s interpretation of the vice presidency, Biden said: “Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The idea he doesn’t realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that’s the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.”
“The primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote,” Biden said., “The Constitution is explicit. The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.”
Um, Joe, the vice president IS mentioned in Article I. Have you ever read the Constitution?
Article One of the Constitution says this of the vice president:
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall choose their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
Article I does not say, Joe, that the vice president “has no authority relative to the Congress.” If Congress accepts a role for the vp that the president suggests, then there is nothing saying that he cannot take this role as long as it doesn’t actually encroach on the defined powers of the Senate.
What everyone should “understand,” Joe, is that the vice president DOES have a role defined in Article I. The vp is mentioned there and it is obvious that he has some role in the legislative branch. The argument that Cheney made is just as legitimate as the one you are making, Joe.
So, Joe, you can argue that you don’t think the vp should exercise much power, but you cannot say that the Constitution “says” he has none. In truth, the Constitution says little about what a vice president does or doesn’t do. It is up to a joint decision of Congress and the administration to decide what role that will be.
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