What The Vice President Is Actually Responsible For

Though the office of Vice President is frequently overshadowed by that of the Presidency, it is still one of the most important executive offices in the US government. While there have been times when the President and Vice President did not like each other, for the most part they have tended to work well together (this is particularly true of the 20th century). 

In fact, the latter half of the 20th and early 21st centuries have seen a number of great Vice Presidents, individuals who have gone on to make a significant mark on the office and the country. Thus, it is worth taking a closer look at the specific duties and responsibilities the job entails. 

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  • The Vice President Succeeds The President Upon Death Or Resignation
    Photo: Cecil William Stoughton / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Vice President Succeeds The President Upon Death Or Resignation

    The office of the presidency is obviously one of the most important in the United States government. While the Vice President is not nearly as important, they do have the significant function of succeeding the President should the latter die or resign from office. This was defined by Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the United States Constitution and has been invoked on a number of occasions. 

    These include the assassination of John F. Kennedy (succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson,) the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (succeeded by Andrew Johnson,) and the assassination of William McKinley (succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt), as well as the resignation of Richard M. Nixon (succeeded by Gerald Ford.)

  • The Vice President Presides Over The Senate But Can Only Vote On Rare Occasion

    For the most part, the Vice President’s role in government is more restricted than that of the President. One of their key functions, however, is as the president of the Senate, a duty laid out in the Constitution. 

    In such a role, they are responsible for overseeing votes in the chamber and, should there be a tie, casting the deciding vote. This has become an especially important function, particularly when the upper chamber is evenly split between two parties.

  • 25th Amendment Allows The Vice President To Remove The President From Office
    Photo: National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    25th Amendment Allows The Vice President To Remove The President From Office

    One of the Vice President’s most important, and fraught, duties is to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution. This amendment gives the Vice President the power to remove the President from office, so long as either a majority of the Cabinet or a committee appointed by Congress decrees said President is unfit for office. If the President refuses to leave, a required two thirds majority of both houses of Congress is required to put the Vice President in power. 

    The Amendment was passed in 1965 and ratified in 1967, largely as a response to both President Eisenhower’s health struggles while in office and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. 

  • The Vice President Is Given A Position On The National Security Council

    The National Security Council is a vital part of the executive branch of the US government, providing the President with valuable advice on national security concerns and facilitating discussion across various agencies. Given the Vice President’s prominence in most administrations, it is not surprising for them to have a seat at the table. 

    Depending on the person in the office, the Vice President can be a very valuable voice on the NSC. They can, for example, provide the President independent advice and provide a valuable link to the general public and to Congress.