Lesson Objectives:- The vice president's job
- Presidential succession
- When the president becomes incapacitated
- When the vice presidency becomes vacant
In the Constitution, the vice president's only real role is to preside over the Senate. Most of the time, he does not even have to do that as the President Pro Tempore fills that capacity.
Vice Presidents have been chosen by Presidents traditionally to reach more voters. A president from the city does well to choose one who is known in rural settings. A president from the North might choose a vice president from the South. A female has been chosen several times to attempt to draw the female voters.
Beyond their role in attracting voters, the Vice President normally does not have much responsibility, although some presidents have allowed Vice Presidents to be powerful, as was the case with Dick Cheney when George W. Bush was president.
Throughout history, there have been eight instances where the Vice President has become President when the office became vacant as a result of death.
Death is not the only reason a vice president might need to step up into the office; a president can also become incapacitated. This has happened several times throughout history when the president fell ill, such as when Woodrow Wilson had a stroke in 1919 and Dwight D. Eisenhower became ill in 1958.
In 1967, the 25th Amendment was passed to give guidance for how to handle these situations. It establishes procedures for filling presidential and vice-presidential vacancies and makes provisions for presidential incapacity.
When possible, the president must inform Congress in writing that he is incapable of fulfilling his duties in office. At that time, the vice president steps up and acts as president until the president can return.
If the president cannot communicate that he is unable to fulfill his duties, that decision is to be made by a majority of the cabinet along with the vice president.
When the office of the vice president becomes vacant, Section 2 of the 25th Amendment provides that the president will nominate a vice president who must then be confirmed by a majority vote in Congress.
There is an entire line of succession established by the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 that ranks offices that will replace the office of the president and the vice president in the unlikely scenario that those offices keep becoming vacant. The Speaker of the House will become president in the case that the offices of president and vice president become vacant. The President Pro Tempore of the Senate is next in line, and the list keeps going.