What Does The Vice President Actually Do?

We’re here at YouTube Studios at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio! Last

week, Trump announced his pick for Vice President, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and like most

of Trump’s decisions, it came with its own controversy.  VP’s names appear on a nominee’s

campaign advertisements and on the ballot, and many believe that a nominee’s choice

can make or break their campaign. But, after the dust settles, how much power does a Vice

President really have? What exactly does a VP do?

Well, according to the US Constitution the VP is the first in line to take over the Presidency

should the president die, resign or be removed from office. However this has only happened

9 times, four presidents were assassinated, four died of natural causes, and one resigned.

Additionally, if the president is temporarily incapacitated, for example if he or she is

under anesthesia, the VP becomes the Acting President.

The Constitution also states that the VP must preside over the Senate, although realistically

that just means they are there to break a tie vote. In fact, according to official senate

rules, Vice Presidents are not even allowed to debate or address the governing body. What’s

more, tie breaker votes are relatively rare. Current VP Joe Biden, is one of 12 VPs who

have never cast a such a vote. But although such votes are rare, they can potentially

have huge implications for the country. America’s first Vice President, John Adams, cast 29

tie-breaking votes, more than any other VP in history, through which he determined the

location of the US capitol, protected certain presidential powers and even stopped a war

with Great Britain.

However, VPs do have a number of informal responsibilities, which vary according to

their relationship with the President. Many VP’s have acted as the administration’s

unofficial spokesperson, or as the President’s primary confidant. One of the first to do

this was Walter Mondale, who was reportedly a close advisor to President Jimmy Carter

and an active participant in the day-to-day duties of his administration. Similarly, Former

Vice President Al Gore had a cozy relationship with Bill Clinton, particularly on matters

of foreign policy and the environment.

Perhaps surprisingly, such cooperation is a fairly new phenomenon. Most VP’s who served

before the 1970’s were merely figureheads—standing by just incase they needed to suddenly take

charge. VP’s didn’t give speeches, didn’t meet with foreign leaders or even work with

the President on policy matters. In fact, Presidents didn’t even begin choosing their

VP’s until the 1800s. Before that, whichever candidate finished in second automatically

became VP, even if their views opposed that of the President.

Today, the Vice Presidential appointment is considered one of the most important decisions

a nominee can make in their campaign, as it sends a powerful message about what they can

expect from the administration. Nominees tend to opt for VP’s who have an impressive or

unique resume, or someone that offers different strengths than they do, as a balanced ticket

generally appeals to different types of voters. For controversial nominees like Clinton and

Trump, a widely respected second-in-command might just be their ticket into the oval office.