Civic Literacy Curriculum
Question 39: What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now?
Q39: What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now?
A. Joe Biden
B. Bernie Sanders
C. Kamala Harris
D. Mike Pence
Initially, the runner up in the presidential election would become the vice president, but the Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804 after the contentious 1800 election, changed this to create a more orderly system, and one more likely to improve relations between the president and vice president. Instead, the president and vice-presidential candidates each ran for separate offices, presumably as a joint ticket.
Even in the event the president does not leave office in the middle of the term for which he or she was elected, several vice presidents have subsequently become president through their own election as president. (Early in America’s history, the more likely political heir was actually the Secretary of State).
The Constitution only briefly describes the responsibilities of the vice president. The vice president succeeds a deceased or incapacitated president, and “[S]hall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.” (In other words, the vice president can serve as the presiding officer of the Senate, with the ability to cast votes in the event of a tie, though usually a member of the Senate presides). The Twenty-Fifth Amendment establishes additional protocols for when the vice president can temporarily or permanently assume the powers of the president should the president be incapacitated. Finally, the vice president also has the ceremonial obligation of counting Electoral College votes submitted by the states.
But that’s the extent of his or her formal constitutional obligations, other than being prepared to serve as president. Since the Constitution is silent on this, vice presidents have approached the job differently. Some presidents want their vice presidents deeply involved in executive branch obligations and very active. Other vice presidents have done little other than be prepared to replace the president. Today, in addition to presiding over the Senate, the vice president is a member of the president’s Cabinet and works with both the executive and legislative branches.
The Vice President of the United States is a rarely seen actor in the White House stage, though some vice presidents take a more active role than others. The role is only vaguely defined in the Constitution, which says that he or she can preside over the Senate, cast tie-breaking votes, and step in should the President be unable to serve. But, over time, those in that position have taken on or been assigned other responsibilities. This activity will give the students a chance to look at some of what the Vice President does today.
- Provide each student/pair with a copy of Writing Job Descriptions.
- Provide each student/pair with a copy of The Vice Presidency.
- Print a copy of the answer key.
- Provide each student/pair with a blank piece of paper, either an 8x10 or an 8x14.
The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes an answer key.
- Assign the students to work individually or in pairs.
- If assigning pairs: group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair students who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C).
- Explain to the students that they are going to create a job description for the Vice President of the United States.
- Provide the students with the necessary materials.
- Use your discretion when determining the size of paper. An 8x10 works as well as an 8x14. It depends on whether or not you want the students to present their work or if you wish to hang it up for display.
- Circulate throughout the room to assist the students as they work.
- If you wish, invite students to share their job descriptions and why they listed the responsibilities that they did. Use this as an opportunity to talk about the different responsibilities of the Vice President.
Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting.
- The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question.
- The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events, and historical events.
Compared to other actors on the White House stage, the Vice President of the United States is seen relatively rarely, though some vice presidents take a more active role than others. The office is only vaguely defined in the Constitution, which says that he or she can preside over the Senate, cast tie-breaking votes, and step in should the President be unable to serve. But, over time, those in that position have taken on or been assigned other responsibilities. This activity will give the students a chance to look at some of what the vice president does today.
Today, we elect the president and the vice president together. Who is the Vice President today?
The framers of the Constitution recognized the importance of maintaining a stable government in the event that the President was unable to serve. As a result, they created the position of Vice President. Aside from the responsibilities outlined in the Constitution, what is the role of the Vice President? Support your answer with examples from both the past and present.