In today’s New York Times, Glenn Reynolds takes on the tricky issue of the proper role of the Vice President. Sarah Palin’s comments on the Veep’s constitutional role in the Vice Presidential debate have been denounced by some, but Reynolds says she was right to emphasize the Vice President’s role as part of the legislative branch. As we noted here, it was Joe Biden, not Palin, who mangled the Vice President’s constitutional status.
So far, that’s not controversial. But Glenn goes further: he argues that the Vice President is properly viewed only as part of the legislative branch, and that it is unconstitutional for the President to delegate executive duties to the Vice President, as has happened routinely in recent administrations.
Glenn’s argument is that the old-timers had it right. The Vice Presidency, properly viewed, is as insignificant an office–unless and until the President dies or is removed from office–as it was considered through most of our history. He adds policy arguments to the effect that entangling the Vice President in executive policy can be problematic. Possibly so. But I think the modern approach to the office is here to stay.
We should consider ourselves lucky if it’s only Vice Presidents who exercise arguably-unconstitutional executive powers. At least they are elected officials. A far more disturbing phenomenon was Bill Clinton’s delegating executive authority to his wife. That didn’t work out so well, which doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve seen the last of the idea.
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