What is the relationship between the POTUS and the VPOTUS? [Note: Spoilers for House of Cards]

What is the relationship between the Vice President and the President? Unlike the cabinet, the VP doesn’t serve at the pleasure of the President. The President can’t really make him do anything, can he? I was watching House of Cards and in it I see Kevin Spacey defer to the President as a superior. While I don’t doubt that he would as a matter of course, nothing exists in law to make it so, correct?


Well, the VP’s formal powers are laid out in the Constitution. That is, the VP (1) is president of the Senate and (2) takes over the duties of the president when the latter becomes incapacitated. There is no formal language in the Constitution stating that the VP must defer to the President on his duties.

On the other hand, a VP’s informal powers depend highly on his/her relationship with the President. George W. Bush’s relationship with his VP (Dick Cheney) would have been dramatically different from that between George H.W. Bush and his VP (Dan Quayle). This would have affected the deference each VP had towards his president.

They are in love, but live apart.

Something about snoring and bathroom horrors.

Lately, a lot of the VPOTUS’s have seemed to me like Impeachment Insurance. “You want to impeach me? You want HIM to take over, then?”

There a classic quote by Thomas R. Marshall
“Once there were two brothers: one ran away to sea, the other was elected Vice-President - and nothing was ever heard from either of them again”

No, but on the other hand, the President can prevent the VP from being able to do anything. If the P and the VP disagree, it will be the latter who finds himself without anything to do except attend funerals in obscure foreign countries, and also find himself with no support from the party bigwigs when he decides to run for President himself.

The amount of power Vice Presidents have is entirely dependent on what the President decides to have them do.

Not long ago their job was basically limited to going to funerals and public events the President didn’t have time for.

Harry Truman was only Vice President for 82 days before taking over when Roosevelt died, but as the Wikipedia page says;

"Truman’s brief vice-presidency was relatively uneventful. Roosevelt rarely contacted him, even to inform him of major decisions; the President and Vice President met alone together only twice during their time together in office.

He had rarely discussed world affairs or domestic politics with Roosevelt and was uninformed about major initiatives relating to the war and the top-secret Manhattan Project, which was about to test the world’s first atomic bomb."

About his predecessor;

“Like most Vice Presidents in this era, Garner had little to do, and had little influence on the President’s policies. He famously described the Vice-Presidency as being “not worth a bucket of warm piss”. (For many years, this quote was euphemized as “warm spit”.”

The relationship has ranged from close (Clinton & Gore, Bush & Cheney) to actively detesting one another (Jackson & Calhoun). But the president is in the driver’s seat and the VP had next to no absolute power. Other politicians don’t usually take him seriously other than as an advocate for the President.

Sitting VPs do tend to run for president, and in the past few decades they managed to get the nomination, but their record isn’t that good (George Bush managed to do it, but Martin Van Buren was the last before that).

That’s in the American version of House of Cards, Frank Underwood’s maneuvering to become VP only makes sense under one condition: he plans to kill the president.[/spoiler]

Without the President’s authorization the VP can’t do much of anything.

This happened much less often when the Constitution was changed so that the runner-up of the presidential election didn’t become VP.

So an ideal choice for a vice president would be one who is simultaneously known to be incompetent and popular.

This makes a lot of sense…

Strictly speaking, Underwood knows he can’t actually kill the President directly. He must have some complex scheme that depends on many indirect elements coming together so that someone else kills the President, and Underwood can deny all knowledge or responsibility…

Like (Vice-)President Clark and The Shadows on Babylon 5.

You want somebody who’s popular with your supporters and hated by your enemies. After all, it’s your supporters who will vote for you and your enemies who will be thinking about impeaching you.

You want someone who would fit the description: (Mostly) Harmless.

That change occurred before Jackson became President.


Jesus…he deliberately PICKED Crazy Calhoun? Given their mutual hatred I’ve alway been under the impression Calhoun was foisted upon him.

I dunno, I can’t find it exactly, but what I read talks about him being elected to the post and there’s even a list of electoral votes (171) that he got in the election - separate from that for President. Not interested in spending too much more time researching.

I’d forgotten that this modern process of the Presidential candidate choosing his running mate is non-Constitutional. The Twelfth Amendment only states that President and Vice-President are elected separately. People actually used to RUN for VP on their own initiative rather than being chosen by the Presidential candidate. The “running mate” process seems to have developed around the middle of the 19th Century.

Please reassure me that George W. Bush (who satisfies all three conditions) can’t run for VP. :smack: