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How the Vice Presidency Works in Washington, D.C.

Fourteen men who gained the vice presidency in Washington, D.C., subsequently became president: nine due to the death or resignation of the president, and five by direct election. (Of the veeps who succeeded to the highest office, only Thomas Jefferson served two full terms as president.)

The vice presidency is not always the most stimulating or rewarding political position. Constitutionally, vice presidents preside over the U.S. Senate and cast the deciding vote in case of a tie, and they also represent the president at state funerals around the world.

Other than that, they don’t have many mandated duties, which is why John Adams, our first Vice President, called it “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.” Daniel Webster turned down the office of Vice President, declaring, “I do not propose to be buried until I am actually dead.”

However, especially in modern times, the vice president can have substantial influence depending upon his relationship with the president. Both Al Gore and Dick Cheney had important, substantive roles in their administrations. (In contrast, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s number two, Harry Truman, came into office not knowing about the Manhattan Project’s atomic bomb.)

The Constitution stipulates that the powers and duties of the President devolve to the vice president “in case of the removal of the President from office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties” of the Office.

The Constitution does not set out eligibility requirements for the vice president, but obviously a vice president could not succeed to the presidency unless he or she met the eligibility requirements for that office.

His duties also include signing legislation and international agreements, issuing Executive Orders to carry out various governmental actions or measures to implement laws, and nominating officials for Senate confirmation.

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