Who Presides Over The Impeachment Of A Vice President?
Like many around here, I relish a good Constitutional argument. Nothing mundane like the Affordable Care Act or Citizens United, but an academic investigation of what the Constitution says and how it works.
Right now I'm reading "America's Unwritten Constitution" by Akhil Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, visiting Professor of Law at Harvard, Columbia and Pepperdine Universities and a Senior Scholar at the National Constitution Center. He raises some fascinating questions, and I'd like to share one with you folks now:
Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 of the Constitution says: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate"
However, Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 of the Constitution says: "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside."
So here's the question: Who presides at trial if the Vice President of the United States is Impeached? It can't be the Chief Justice, who only presides when a President is tried. And if the Vice President is the President of the Senate, then he is the presiding officer for all matters other than the impeachment of a President. So does the Constitution mandate that the Vice President shall preside over his own trial? And if he does not, then who does? The President Pro Tempore? The Majority Leader? Fortunately, no Vice President has ever been impeached. But that doesn't mean that it will never happen.
It's questions like this which form the basis of Amar's book (which I recommend that ANYONE who is interested in the Constitution read). There are some situations in which the language of the Constitution is insufficient and we MUST look beyond them for resolution. Something that we should all keep in mind.
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