Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The Sunset of the Vice President

Jerry Stratton, December 23, 2015

Aaron Burr dueling: Statue of Aaron Burr, with firearm extended.; Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr, the last Vice President elected before the tenth amendment.

Ever since the Vice President changed from being the President’s most popular opponent to the President’s partner—with the passing of the twelfth amendment in 1804—the Vice President’s job has faded.

It occurred to me that, rather than having all laws automatically sunset after a period of time, they could become eligible for removal after that period of time, but that an elected official would be responsible for going through the laws and choosing which haven’t done what they set out to do. It should be an official whose popularity then hinges on what they repeal, rather than what they enact.

The Vice President might make a good choice for that position, as the Vice President doesn’t actually have much in the way of official responsibilities. Ties in the Senate are pretty rare and while the Vice President can preside over the Senate, there’s not actually a lot of responsibility there. The Vice President’s arguably most critical duty, the 25th amendment power to get the cabinet together and declare the President “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” is one that so far has never been invoked.

A Law1 becomes eligible for repeal by the Vice President seven years after it becomes a Law or after two thirds of the State Legislatures petition the Vice President for repeal of the Law. The Vice President must report these Laws to Congress and the States. Congress may, within sixty days, block repeal with a two-thirds vote in each House. Alternatively, two-thirds of State Legislatures can vote to block repeal within 120 days. If repeal is not blocked by Congress or by the several States, the Law is repealed 120 days after the Vice President reports its repeal.

This provision does not apply to Laws whose sole purpose is the repeal another Law.

Congress would of course be free to re-pass the law, but this would open the law up for debate again, and there would be a better chance of learning from the failure of the first go-round. It is a lot easier to acknowledge the need for change once the original is gone.

There aren’t a lot of provisions in United States law for reducing the scope of the federal government. We need a few. And this would give the Vice President an answer to the perennial question, “what did you accomplish while you were veep?”

It would also make Vice Presidential debates a whole lot more interesting.

In response to Essential Revolution: The Return of the Republicans: The crime of the day is when you do it again.

  1. I’m making the assumption here that Laws as referenced in the constitution are those Bills that have become Laws. It’s important that only full laws as passed by congress be repealable. Piecemeal repeal would be more complex, and the proposal here is to reduce complexity. So if there exists a more precise term of art, such as Act or Bill, it should be used; but I couldn’t find one.

  1. <- Corruption oxymoron