Despite what Donald Trump has been telling the world for the last week, the 2020 US presidential race is over.

With 306 electoral votes, Joe Biden has won the presidency, and will begin his four-year term on 20 Jan next year.

His running mate, Kamala Harris, is the first woman and first woman of colour to be elected as the vice-president of the United States.

This may come as a shock to you, but vice-presidents don’t just kiss babies until something happens to the president; they have tasks and duties of their own.

So, what do they do?

VPs Only Recently Garnered Respect

The vice-presidency actually used to be a ridiculed position.

Believe it or not, it was viewed as an unimportant and even embarrassing role to have.

This is why when Daniel Webster, an American lawyer, was offered the vice-presidency back in the day, he said: “I do not propose to be buried until I am dead.”

However, over the years, the position has grown in importance and slowly garnered respect.

This started with Jimmy Carter, elected president in 1976, who used Walter Mondale as a true partner and adviser.

Carter thought it was important to have someone who was a “heartbeat away” from assuming his position to know what the duties of a president are.

Speaking of which…

They Will Take Over the Presidency if Something Happens to the President

Their main role, of course, is to take over the presidency if anything happens to the president.

So, if the sitting president passes away or resigns, the vice-president will become the president.

According to CNNeight vice-presidents have assumed the presidency upon the death of the president; one upon the president’s resignation.

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Current Roles

The vice-president only has one constitutional role (i.e. official duty), and that is to preside over the Senate if there’s a tie. (think of the Senate as the Parliament in Singapore).

When there is a bill or law senators want to pass, a simple majority vote (more than 50%) is required to pass it.

However, if there is a tie, the vice-president will cast the tie-breaking vote.

According to ABC4, the vice-president can also be called upon for diplomatic duties and foreign policy negotiations.

In other words, they are the president’s representative at events, whether it’s an important meeting abroad with a foreign leader, or an appearance at a dinner party.

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Because the president’s plate is so full, the vice-president can also take over some of their duties.

For instance, under Obama, his vice-president Joe Biden (and of course, now president-elect) was involved in the 2009 recovery bill, pandemic preparation, and budget negotiations, among other things.


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Previous vice-presidents have launched campaigns in certain areas, such as environmental issues, for example, as a way for the president to show focus in that area.

The vice-president can also serve as advisers to the president, someone who isn’t a “yes-man” and who will actually disagree with the president if they need to.

While it was once the butt of jokes, the vice-presidency has over time become a significant and respected position.

In addition to assuming the presidency if the need arises, they help the president fulfil the long list of duties at his or her door.

As Biden once said, the presidency is “too big anymore for any one man or woman.”


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Featured Image: Maverick Pictures / shutterstock.com

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