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All About Being Vice President (and more)

US Constitution
US Constitution

The vice presidency is one of the highest positions in the United States government, and those who hold this office work alongside the president to ensure that the country runs smoothly. 

Created in conjunction with the presidency itself, this position was initially intended to be primarily utilized in the legislative branch of the government. However, it has become a far more executive position in recent years.

What requirements are needed to be Vice President?

To run for and be elected to the vice presidency, there is a series of requirements that a potential candidate must meet:

  • Be at least thirty-five years of age
  • Be a natural-born United States citizen
  • Lived in the United States for at least fourteen years

When Was the Vice Presidency Established?

After the United States successfully maintained its independence upon winning the Revolutionary War, it needed to establish a method of governing its newly acquired independent citizens and territories. After six years of debate and trial-and-error efforts at structuring the federal government, the Constitution was finally accepted as the law of the land in 1789.

Portrait of John Adams
John Adams was the 1st vice president of the United States.

This document also delineated the various positions which could be found in the federal government, including the president and vice president.

Despite the fact that the new American citizens were familiar with governments ruled by a single monarch, the Founding Fathers chose to appoint the majority of the most important government representatives by democratic election. 

In the first presidential election, George Washington was unanimously agreed upon as the best choice to be the first to become the newborn country’s leader. However, even at the time of the election, the commander-in-chief position did not yet have a name.

President George Washington
Founding Father, George Washington.

There was some debate within Congress for some time as to what the elected leader of the country should be called. Some worried that a title indicative of nobility could inflate a president’s ego, while others feared that foreign entities would not take a “president” seriously. 

The word itself means “one who presides over a body of people” and was eventually agreed upon to be the most appropriate title for a leader elected by and for the people.

Vice president was originally the election runner-up

The vice presidency was also established as a position that goes hand-in-hand with the presidency. In the first election, the runner-up candidate who received the second-most votes in the electoral college would become the vice president. 

House of Representatives
House of Representatives in 1886.

This would later change in 1803 with the ratification of the 12th Amendment, which established separate electoral college votes for the president and vice president.

If the president is “one who presides over a body of people,” then the vice president is “one who presides over a body of people in the absence of the president.” 

The office of the vice presidency has changed drastically since its formation in the first election. However, its role as the successor should something happen to the president while they are still in office has been its primary function from the beginning.

Vice-Presidency as a Means To Become President

Most former vice presidents took this position as a potential means to rise through the political hierarchy and eventually become the president themselves. 

President Joe Biden
Joe Biden was vice president to Barack Obama.

15 out of the current 45 individuals who have served as president held office as the vice president before becoming president. It rose to the presidency either through the death of their respective president or by beating them in the next election.

John Adams was the first vice president of the United States before becoming the 2nd president. Thomas Jefferson was the second vice president of the United States and the third president. His vice president was Aaron Burr.

Recent vice presidents include Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, Joe Biden, and Dick Cheney.

Vice President Mike Penc
Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump disembarking Air Force One.

If the vice president were to die whilst in office, or if the president were to die, then the Speaker of the House of Representatives would become the vice president.

Mechanism to Become President

As highlighted above, a potential candidate must meet a series of requirements. They are explicitly stated in the Constitution (Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5) and state that at the time of taking office, a candidate must be:

  • At least thirty-five years old.
  • A natural-born citizen of the United States.
  • An inhabitant of the United States for at least fourteen years.

The requirements to become the vice president are the same as the president. If the vice president could potentially have to take the office of president in the case of emergency, they too must also be qualified to hold the position.

It is also to be noted that there are no prohibitions against running based on gender. Kamala Harris became the first female vice president when Joe Biden, who was Vice President Biden under Barack Obama, defeated President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

Minimum age debate

When the Constitution was written, there was not much protest against setting a minimum age to run for these two offices. However, there was a small debate between future Supreme Court Justice James Wilson and constitutional dissenter George Mason on the subject of minimum-age requirements to run for office. 

George Mason statue
George Mason was in favor of a minimum age requirement.

Mason, who was 62 at the time, argued that one’s political views change drastically as one ages and used his personal experience to assert that young adults do not have the political maturity to hold such an important position.

On the other hand, James Wilson argued that such a restriction could prevent youth’s wisdom from being incorporated into political discourse. However, Mason won the debate, and the minimum-age requirement lived on.

One could potentially be elected to office if they do not meet the minimum age requirement, though, should their birthday come before they are sworn in.

For example, at the age of 29, Joe Biden was elected to be Delaware’s senator despite the fact that he did not meet the minimum age of 30 years old to be a member of the Senate. However, because his birthday (November 20th) came long before he was to take office in January, this rule was overlooked.

While no such situation has occurred in a presidential or vice-presidential election, this proposes the possibility that the minimum-age requirement could be disregarded in specific circumstances.

What Does the Vice President Do?

Since the position’s creation, the duties of the vice president have changed drastically over time; in the 21st century, the vice presidency has become a position that tip-toes the line between the legislative and executive branches of government. 

Congress building
The vice president’s role in the Senate is now largely ceremonial.

The vice president has become far more involved in the administrative processes normally shouldered by the president and mostly maintains the status of “president of the senate,” as delineated by the Constitution, for the sake of ceremony.

In the Senate, the vice president does not have much authority. The vice president cannot vote, except when the Senate has reached a tie. Furthermore, the vice president cannot formally address the Senate unless the Senators have given them express permission.

Nowadays, the vice president usually does not attend Senate meetings regularly, instead, they may only appear in the Capitol building on special occasions or in the event of a tie. On a day-to-day basis, the president pro tempore is generally in charge of presiding over the Senate.

How Much Does the Vice President Earn?

The salary of the vice president of America is $235,100. This amount was set in 2014 by Congress and has been frozen since. 

Where Does the Vice President Live?

Since 1974, vice presidents have lived with their families on the grounds of the United States Naval Observatory. Before that, they lived in their private residences. The reason for this change was the cost of securing private homes was prohibitive.

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