Founders / Framers Minute 11:
Article 1, Section 3, Clause 5
The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.”
by Cornel Rasor
The office of Vice-President as the President of the Senate was contested but not bitterly. Many states had Lieutenant Governors that assumed the same responsibilities proposed for the Vice-President.1 There was concern, indeed a few of the anti-federalists thought the position dangerous, that a blending of the executive and legislative would prove injurious to the plan of the constitution.2
Some like Richard Henry Lee saw the position as simply unimportant.3 The framers however, thought it important enough to assure a proper station and election. The station would be one of only casting a “contingent” rather than a “constant” vote. Should a random senator be elected as senate president, he would lose his “constant” vote and render his state (before the 17th amendment) less represented.
The election would be the same as for the President since the Vice-president might be called upon to take over the executive duties. In this, the founders were concerned that lack of an immediate successor might render the country ill supplied to deal with difficulties that were extant when the president was removed from the scene for whatever reason.
This clause arises from the very idea of the executive being a representative of the states to nations abroad far more than of the people. The House has the distinction of being the direct representative of the people with the Senate the representative of the states as legislators (again, prior to ratification of the 17th amendment).
The idea of the Senate having the liberty to choose their own officers and President Pro-tempore was not contested
The final vote was 8 yes, 2 no and 1 absent
1We have a Lieutenant-Governor, chosen by the people at large, who presides in the Senate, and is the constitutional substitute for the Governor, in casualties similar to those which would authorize the Vice-President to exercise the authorities and discharge the duties of the President. Federalist 68
2“The establishment of a vice-president is as unnecessary as it is dangerous. This officer, for want of other employment, is made president of the senate, thereby blending the executive and legislative powers, besides always giving to some one state, from which he is to come, an unjust pre-eminence.” – George Clinton (Cato), Anti-Federalist No. 67, “Various Fears Concerning the Executive Department,” New York Journal, November 8, 1787
3“The vice president is not a very important, if not an unnecessary part of the system—he may be a part of the senate at one period, and act as the supreme executive magistrate at another.” – Richard Henry Lee (The Federal Farmer), Anti-Federalist No. 36, “Representation and Internal Taxation,” essay “Federal Farmer III,” October 10, 1787
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
Founders / Framers Minute 9: Article 1, Section 3, Clause 4
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