Role of the Vice President in the Legislative Branch
The president of the Senate, the
Senate's presiding officer, is not a member of the body over which he
presides. Instead, the Constitution
assigns the office to the Vice President of the
The Vice President's route to his post is much different from the one the Speaker has traveled. In fact the Senate's president is-sometimes-not even a member of the party with a majority of the seats in the upper chamber.
The president of the Senate does have the usual powers of a presiding officer: to recognize members, put questions to a vote, and so on. However, the Vice President cannot take the floor to speak or debate and may vote only to break a tie.
Any influence a Vice President may have in the Senate is largely the result of personal abilities and relationships. Several of the more recent Vice Presidents came to that office from the Senate: Harry Truman, Alben Barkley, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle, Al Gore and Dick Cheney. Each of them was able to build at least some power into the position out of that earlier experience.
The Senate does have another presiding officer, the president pro tempore, who serves in the Vice President's absence. The president pro tempore, or president pro tem for short, is elected by the Senate itself and is always a leading member of the majority party-usually its longest serving member.
The president pro tem follows the Speaker in the line of presidential succession. Other senators occasionally preside over the Senate, on a temporary basis; newly elected members regularly do so early in their terms.