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The Vice President's Health
Political Junkie
Send your questions about campaigns and elections.

By Ken Rudin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Friday, March 9, 2001

Question: In the wake of Vice President Cheney's latest health alert, I understand that the 25th Amendment states that any vice presidential appointee must be confirmed by majorities from the House and Senate. The Senate is, of course, split 50-50 along partisan lines. Also, as we know, the vice president holds the tie-breaking vote. If, hypothetically, Cheney is incapacitated and Bush appoints his successor -- AND the Senate is split 50-50 on the confirmation - who would have the tie-breaking vote? What would the process be? – Mike Palacios, Bethesda, Md.

Answer: Your understanding of the 25th Amendment is correct; see my Jan. 20 column for some background on how Presidents Nixon and Ford picked their vice presidents. In answer to your question, if there was a vice presidential vacancy and the Senate split 50-50 on President Bush's choice, there would be no one to break the tie.

The slogan on this 1980 button unfortunately has come into play with Cheney's health. (Collection of Ken Rudin)
The reality, however, is that the president would name someone who was sure to win confirmation. One of the reasons Nixon chose Ford in 1973 was that he was very popular on Capitol Hill. Had he picked someone more controversial, or someone with clear presidential aspirations, it would have been tougher winning votes from the Democrat-controlled Congress. At the time, many Democrats, including national party chairman Robert Strauss, pointedly said that Nixon should not name a potential presidential candidate. There was even talk of a House resolution that would bar anyone Nixon selected from running in 1976.

Bush has made it clear he does not intend to back away from fights -- witness his nomination of John Ashcroft as attorney general. But I don't see him looking for confrontation in the event a replacement Cheney is warranted.

Question: I will not be as morbid as some of the articles I have been reading; actually, I think Cheney will complete his term as vice president and then call it quits. How many times has a president run with a different vice president in the next election due to the resignation or death of the incumbent vice president? – Micah Bergdale, Chicago, Ill.

Answer: Ten presidents sought re-election with running mates that were different from the ones they first served with:

Thomas Jefferson        1800          Aaron Burr
                        1804          George Clinton
James Madison           1808          George Clinton
                        1812          Elbridge Gerry
Andrew Jackson          1828          John C. Calhoun
                        1832          Martin Van Buren
Abraham Lincoln         1860          Hannibal Hamlin
                        1864          Andrew Johnson
Ulysses Grant           1868          Schuyler Colfax
                        1872          Henry Wilson
Grover Cleveland        1884          Thomas Hendricks
                        1888 (lost)   Allen Thurman 
Benjamin Harrison       1888          Levi Morton
                        1892 (lost)   Whitelaw Reid 
William McKinley        1896          Garret Hobart
                        1900          Theodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft     1908          James Sherman
                        1912 (lost)   Nicholas Butler 
Franklin D. Roosevelt   1932, 1936    John Nance Garner
                        1940          Henry Wallace
                        1944          Harry Truman

Seven vice presidents died in office: Clinton in 1812; Gerry in 1814; William King (who served under Zachary Taylor) in 1853; Wilson in 1875; Hendricks in 1885; Hobart in 1899; and Sherman in 1912. Two resigned from office: John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson's vice president, quit in 1832; and Spiro Agnew, Richard Nixon's vice president. Agnew, who was involved in a kickback scandal, stepped down in 1973.

Question: Not a question, but in talking about former professional athletes who've served in Congress (see March 2 column), you missed at least one prominent name; perhaps that's because his career in athletics was not nearly as successful as his career in politics. Mo Udall, the late Democratic congressman from Arizona, played for the Denver Nuggets in 1948-49. Also, these three other professional baseball players served:

• Pius Schwert, who played 11 games for the Yankees in 1914 and 1915 and served in the House from 1938 to 1941;
• Fred Brown, a one-term Democratic senator from New Hampshire in the thirties, who played briefly for the Boston Braves in 1901; and
• John Tener (reportedly the first professional baseball player to serve in Congress), a late 19th century player, who served in the House from 1909 to 1911. He later was governor of Pennsylvania and president of the National League. – John A. Frey, Charlottesville, Va.

Response: As one who believes that there is little in life beyond baseball and politics, I really enjoyed the response to this question. Other alert readers found some more names I missed:

Mike Newman, a former Nebraskan now living in Englewood, Colo., notes that while everyone knows that freshman Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) is the revered former long-time football coach for the Cornhuskers, he also played quarterback for three years in the NFL (two with the Washington Redskins and one with the San Francisco 49ers). In fact, during Osborne's season with the 49ers, Jack Kemp was his roommate.

The political career of Mathias, an Olympic champion, ended in the Watergate year of 1974. (Collection of Ken Rudin)

Bob Timmermann of South Pasadena, Calif., who also knew about Pius Schwert, adds that Morgan G. Bulkeley, a Republican senator from Connecticut (1905-1911), also served as the first president of the National League for one year in 1876, and that Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler, the famed late Kentucky Democrat who served in the Senate and as governor, was the Commissioner of Baseball from 1945-50. Like Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), both Bulkeley and Chandler are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Several readers wrote in asking about Bob Mathias, the former GOP House member from California. Since the original question was about professional athletes, I omitted Mathias, who was an Olympic decathlon champion. For the record, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) was a member of the U.S. Olympic judo team in 1964.

Question: I recently discovered your online column, and for a government junkie like myself, it is terrific! Here's my question: Why was President Bush's budget address to Congress, which was just like a State of the Union speech in every way but name, not called a State of the Union address? Is it because he's only been in office for several weeks? If that's so, why didn't former president Bill Clinton make a final State of the Union speech before he left? Shouldn't there be one every year? – Justin Jones, South Nyack, N.Y.

Answer: A newly-elected president such as Bush has not been in office long enough to be able to assess the "state of the union." Thus, this particular address to a joint session of Congress was simply a budget message. Clinton could have given a final state of the union address but did not. The former president did give a speech before the Arkansas General Assembly in January that was in many ways a "state of the union." As for whether there should be one every year, all the Constitution states is that a presidential state of the union message must be given "from time to time," but for the better part of the past century it has been part of the president's annual duties.

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: junkie@washingtonpost.com

Ken Rudin, political editor at National Public Radio, is also the creator of washingtonpost.com's ScuttleButton contest.

© Copyright 2001 Ken Rudin

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