Vice Presidential Powers
The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code).
Kurtz smells “a theory of a constitutionally distinct and independent vice presidency” while Digby has spotted “a secretly carved out a previously unenumerated institution,” a “shadow government,” and “a power center outside the commonly understood three branches of government.” He calls for immediate Congressional inquiry.
Yet, aside from the oddity of the entry being submitted in lieu of a list of employees–if indeed that happened–there’s nothing novel there. The Vice President is indeed the only Constitutional official with feet in two branches. He’s the President of the Senate; yet he votes only in case of a tie. He has no formal power in the Executive branch but is designated as the replacement in case the president dies (Article II, Section 1) or is incapacitated (Amendment XXV). Amendment XII requires the Vice President, in his capacity as President of the Senate, to preside over the counting of Electoral College votes and, oddly, has him act as President of the United States if the Electoral College has no majority and “the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following.” (Presumably, that’s obviated by Amendment XX, which moves the inauguration to January 20.)
Title 3 § 106, “Assistance and services for the Vice President,” formalizes the fact that the VP can perform “functions specially assigned” him “by the President in the discharge of executive duties and responsibilities.” Other legislation, notably the National Security Act of 1947, assigns him other duties.
My guess as to the reason the OVP would have submitted that peculiar, legalistic entry to the “Plum Book” (officially, United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions) is because it “is used to identify presidentially appointed positions within the Federal Government.” OVP may simply be making the pedantic point that, in fact, the Vice President himself is authorized plenary power to appoint officials in both the Executive and Legislative branches. These people are not “presidentially appointed.”
UPDATE: I should note that the 1996 and 2000 editions had standard name/title breakdowns for OVP, which was listed under the Executive Office of President. The 2004 listing has it as Appendix 5. This is technically right, I think, for reasons outlined previously. Still, the departure from precedent is indeed rather odd.
- None Found