Symposium article by: Shannen W. Coffin
44 PEPP. L. REV. 583 (2017)
A dispute between a federal oversight authority and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) prompted an unprecedented public discussion regarding the proper location and role of the vice presidency when Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff challenged an audit of classified information on the grounds that the OVP was not an entity within the Executive Branch. The modern role of the Vice President is generally viewed as advisor and supporter of the President, with all executive authority vested in the President. Conversely, the Vice President presides as President of the Senate, casting tie-breaking votes when necessary.
This dual role invokes separation-of-powers concerns, because while the Vice President is plainly an officer of both the Legislative and Executive Branches, he is not considered a full-fledged “member” of either branch. Constitutional text, history, and vice presidents themselves have grappled over whether the OVP is best considered as overlapping the Executive and Legislative Branches, being a hybrid of the two, or existing as its own entity. This symposium article explores the Vice President’s position, delving into his relationships within each political branch, as well as the various duties and functions he performs. Insights from this analysis prompt the theory that perhaps the Vice President’s role fits within both branches of government, contingent on which function he is performing at the time.