Nothing triggers my Don Quixote spirit more so than that part of the Presidential campaign when the Presidential candidate is shopping for a running mate. Reading between the lines, over the lines, or under the lines, I can find nothing in the Constitution to justify the Presidential candidate being allowed to pick the V.P. candidate.
The Founding Fathers intended for the office of Vice President to be the second most powerful office in government. He is to serve as the Presiding Officer over the day-to-activities of the Senate and is to be selected by voters of the entire country, not by the voters of a single state, as is the case today when we allow the Senate Majority Leader to usurp the constitutional duties of the Vice President. The only duties assigned to the Vice President by the Constitution are to count the votes of the Electoral College and to serve as President of the Senate. Click HERE for a more detailed discussion.
We have seen over the past three-and-a-half years the damage that can be done to our legislative processes and to the country when political hacks whose only loyalty is to their party and their only goal is gaining more power, are allowed to preside over the two houses of Congress. While John Boehner is incompetent as Speaker of the House, at least his office is constitutional and he was duly elected by the membership of the House. There is however, no constitutional requirement that the Speaker be from the majority party of even a member of Congress.
While the Constitution (Art. 1.2.9) permits the House to elect its Presiding Officer, the same is not true for the Senate. Article I, Sec. 3, clause 6, 7 requires, “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided. The Senate shall choose 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.”
The President pro tempore is not a permanent office. He is to be chosen by the Senate to serve temporarily as the Presiding Officer of the Senate only, “in the absence of the Vice President, or when he (the V.P.) shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.” The Speaker of the House is the Presiding Officer of the House of Representatives, and the Vice President of the United States is the Presiding Officer of the Senate. There is no constitutional requirement for him to be a member of the majority party just as there is no requirement that the Speaker of the House be a member of Congress. The President of the Senate is the only officer of the Legislative Branch to be elected nationally and accountable to the voters of the entire country.
While there is no way, in the short term, to bring the Federal government back in line with the Constitution, we should be working tirelessly to that end. In the meanwhile, if Mitt Romney wishes to follow the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution and Amendment XII, in selecting his running mate, he should choose Rick Santorum since he received the second largest number of delegates during the Primaries.
Also see these two posts from the 2008 election cycle.