SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Vice Presidents of the United States spend most of their time in the shadows, receiving only a fraction of the attention and media coverage of the President but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have important roles and responsibilities.

First and foremost, the VP is one heartbeat away from becoming the leader of the free world.

“This is the person who takes office if there’s a death or resignation of the President. That’s primarily it,” Jason Perry, the Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics explains. “There’s only one constitutional role for the Vice President and that is to preside over the Senate which essentially means this: that person will cast the tiebreaking vote if there is a tie in the Senate. Otherwise, they’re not even able to address the Senate unless they’re invited by the Senate itself. Those are the primary roles set by the Constitution for the Vice President.”

The Vice President can also be called upon for diplomatic duties and foreign policy negotiations.

“The Vice President effectively becomes the emissary for the President of the United States to events all over the world, for certain parts of the portfolio,” Perry said. “This is an Executive Branch function where the Vice President goes where the President needs representation. It is the big dinners. Sometimes it’s a negotiation…Sometimes it’s dealing with another country depending on their expertise or their negotiation skills or their economic development skills. If they come with certain sorts of experience levels, they get implemented in different types of ways. It’s entirely though at the discretion of the President.”

A U.S. president has not died in office since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 but with one candidate who turns 78 next month and the other 74 years old and battling Covid-19, it has to at least be a consideration this time around.  

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