Wednesday, February 15, 2012

That's Just Our Joe

K-Lo at NRO quotes an email from Amy Holmes regarding the current impasse over the Senate choosing to neglect its constitutional duties in passing a budget:

One point, though, that seems to have been overlooked by the Beltway media is that the position of president of the Senate is held by the Vice President of the United States. And currently that man happens to be former Senator Joe Biden, a man who up until 2009 served in the greatest deliberative body for almost the entirety of his adult life.

While occupants of the vice presidency have typically only alighted on their Constitutionally prescribed Senate perch to cast tie breaking votes, as notes the position of vice president (itself created only as a vague notion) has one explicit duty: to serve as of president of the Senate: “The framers also devoted scant attention to the vice president’s duties, providing only that he ‘shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be evenly divided’ (Article I, section 3).”

Interesting angle! But, remember the Biden-Palin debate in 2008? Biden rejected the idea that the Vice President could have any role in the US Senate unless it was to cast a tie-breaking vote.

The idea [Cheney] doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

Biden was wrong, of course. Article I deals exclusively with the Legislative branch, and that is where the role of President of the Senate is defined for the Vice President. The Executive branch is only found in Article II. And as to when the Vice President actually presides over the Senate, we'll turn to Wikipedia for this:

The presiding officer may be the President of the Senate, who under Article One of the United States Constitution is the Vice President of the United States and may vote when the Senate is "equally divided" - that is, when a tie occurs. While some early Vice Presidents regularly presided over the Senate, in modern times the Vice President has only actively presided over the chamber when it is anticipated that he may be able to use his casting vote to break a tie, or on ceremonial occasions, such as the counting of electoral votes following a presidential election and the swearing-in of new members.

We'll give Biden partial credit in terms of what the modern practice of Vice Presidential involvement has been in the Senate, to which Holmes also refers. But Biden's notion that "as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit" is simply inaccurate. But that's just our Joe.

Holmes' continues:

So, why has the White House declined to dispatch such an able lieutenant to corral the troops and deliver the 51 votes needed for legislative victory? The answer certainly can’t be lack of “access.”

Perhaps the answer is that Biden is Constitutionally illiterate. That's just our Joe.

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