Founders / Framers Minute 10:
Article 1, Section 3, Clause 4
“The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.”
by Cornel Rasor
Concern over undue executive influence over the legislature drove debate on this clause. Elbridge Gerry, Gouverneur Morris, Edmund Randolph and George Mason notably opposed this clause with Mason providing the most robust debate. Both Gerry and Mason took the opportunity to weigh in on opposition to even having a Vice-president.
During debate on this section, Mason, also averse to the executive even being able to appoint members to either branch of the legislature, proposed that a “privy Council of six members to the president should be established; to be chosen for six years by the Senate, two out of the Eastern two out of the middle, and two out of the Southern quarters of the Union, & to go out in rotation two every second year; the concurrence of the Senate to be required only in the appointment of Ambassadors, and in making treaties. which are more of a legislative nature.”
He believed this would prevent, in his words, “the constant sitting of the senate” which he deemed dangerous to the republic and would save on the expense of such lengthy and frequent sessions.
Future president James Monroe allowed that the office of the vice-president was the “bugbear of the Constitution” though “surely an inoffensive officer”.
Similar concerns were raised in the North Carolina ratifying convention with delegates likewise concerned with the seeming blending of the executive and legislative branches. Many were concerned however at the consequence of a sitting senator losing his regular vote upon being installed as president of the senate except in deciding a tie vote. This would reduce his states influence in the senate.
Since the ratification of the constitution through November 29, 2018, vice-presidents have cast the tie-breaking vote 266 times. There have been over 20,000 statutes put on the books since 1789 so only 1.33% have needed a tie-breaker. John C. Calhoun under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson cast the most with 31 in 8 years followed closely by John Adams under George Washington with 29 in 8 years.
George Dallas under James K. Polk cast a remarkable 19 in his 4 year tenure. The most cast by a recent VP is Mike Pence with 11 in just two years.
The final vote confirming this clause came September 7 and it was upheld with 8 yes, 2 no and 1 absent. Upon confirmation it was sent to the Committee of Style and the words “Ex Officio” were struck as superfluous.
Founders / Framers Minute 1: Article I, Section 1
Founders / Framers Minute 2: Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2
Founders / Framers Minute 3: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3a
Founders / Framers Minute 4: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3b
Founders / Framers Minute 5: Article I, Section 2, Clause 4
Founders / Framers Minute 6: Article I, Section 2, Clause 5
Founders / Framers Minute 7: Article I, Section 3, Clause 1
Founders / Framers Minute 8: Article I, Section 3, Clause 2
Founders / Framers Minute 9: Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3
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