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4.4 The Vice President and Presidential Succession

The vice-president of the U.S. works as the presiding officer of the Senate. However he can vote only to break a tie. The vice-president is chiefly elected to take over the duties of the president "in case of removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office." The twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution thus provides for the presidential succession of the vice-president. This amendment was a direct response of the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963. This kind of transfer of executive power is one of the most notable features of the American government.

4.4a The Selection of the Vice President

Vice-presidential candidates are formally nominated by a national convention of party delegates, meeting in June or July, of each election year. The Presidential nominee generally has influence and control in the selection of his running mate for the campaign. Further attention is paid to the constitutional requirements that the candidates should come from different states, and also from different sections of the country. If possible, they should represent different interests and points of view. When the President in office is re-nominated by a national convention, its main creative task, could be the selection of a vice-presidential candidate. Thus in 1944, on re-nominating President Roosevelt, party leaders perceived that in selecting Harry Truman as the vice-presidential candidate, they were selecting a President for most of the ensuing four years. This meant that he would follow the present president.


4.4b The Role of the Vice-President

It may be noted that the vice-presidentís role is not defined clearly by the Constitution. This means that he has to rely solely on the Presidentís word for his functions. If the legislators find the vice-president acceptable, he can serve as an effective agent of the President, provided he is able to subordinate himself to the Presidentís policy. Thus vice-president Lyndon Johnson was in charge of the U.S. space program during the tenure of President Kennedy. So also, Al Gore is deeply committed to President Clintonís policy of streamlining government bureaucracy, as well as in his approach to environmental issues. In general, the vice-presidency is usually regarded as a necessary safeguard.

4.4c The Process of Presidential Succession

When a vacancy arises in the office of vice-president, the President can nominate a vice-president who takes office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both houses of the Congress. The President can himself notify the Congress of his inability to discharge the duties of his office. In this case, the vice-president becomes acting President until the Presidentís notification of the removal of his inability of performing the role of a president. Further the vice-president backed by a majority of "either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide" and can exercise the powers of the Presidentís office, while the question of the Presidentís disability is before the Congress for determination. This can only happen provided that he (the vice-president) is backed by a majority of "either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide." According to an Act passed in 1947, in the event of the death of both the President and vice-president, the Speaker of the House of Representatives is first in line of succession to the presidency, followed by the President pro tempore of the Senate. If there is a vacancy in both these offices, any one of the heads of executive departments becomes "acting President" until replacement by a Speaker of the House or President pro tempore of the Senate, who serves for the remaining term.

Index

4.0 Introduction
4.1 The Powers of the President
4.2 The Functions of the President
4.3 The Organization of the Executive Branch
4.4 The Vice President and Presidential Succession

Chapter 5





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