Culture and Society

What are the duties of the U.S. vice president?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. While the U.S. vice president has several duties, the primary function of the office is that of a backup. The vice president must step in to the executive role if the president is no longer able to fulfill his or her duties (due to death, illness, resignation or impeachment). The vice president's only constitutionally mandated job is to be president of the Senate. Other than that, what the vice president does is largely up to the president and to the vice president. The vice president may be the liaison between the executive and legislative branches of government. In some instances, the vice president can stand in for the president in ceremonial situations: he or she can host state dinners, greet foreign dignitaries or attend state funerals. The president may direct the vice president to focus on specific federal projects, as President John Kennedy did when he made Vice President Lyndon Johnson responsible for NASA and the space program. In other instances, the vice president may have his or her own agenda, and he or she may pressure the president and Congress to act.

    President of the Senate may sound like an important position, but most of the time, it's fairly technical: The person presiding over the Senate is in charge of keeping order in discussions. There are two situations in which the president of the Senate has a little more to do:

    • Announcing the results of the presidential race: The vice president tells the Senate which candidate got the most electoral ballots. Sometimes, an incumbent vice president is a contender for the presidency, and he or she must therefore announce his or her own victory or defeat.
    • Tie-breaker: If the Senate is split equally in voting on a matter of legislation, the president of the Senate casts the deciding vote. Since few issues are brought to a vote before a clear majority (either for or against) is expected, the vice president rarely uses this authority.

    Although some vice presidents have taken the presidency of the Senate very seriously, most have delegated the task to senators. The senator who accepts this job becomes the president of Senate pro tempore (temporary president).

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