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OLC Views the Office of Vice President, 1955-2007

The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) at the Department of Justice has been pondering the peculiar status of the Office of Vice President for decades, and has recently released a collection of more than a dozen OLC opinions regarding the Vice President, dating back to the Eisenhower Administration.

“The Vice President, of course, occupies a unique position under the Constitution. For some purposes, he is an officer of the Legislative Branch, and his status in the Executive Branch is not altogether clear,” wrote William H. Rehnquist, the future Chief Justice, in a 1969 OLC opinion (pdf) that foreshadowed a similar argument offered last year by Vice President Cheney.

“With regard to the Vice President there is even a constitutional question whether the President can direct him to abide by prescribed standards of conduct,” asserted Antonin Scalia in a 1974 OLC opinion (pdf).

“The Vice Presidential Office is an independent constitutional office, and the Vice President is independently elected. Just as the President cannot remove the Vice President, it would seem he may not dictate his standards of conduct,” the future Justice Scalia wrote.

The OLC opinions concerning the Vice President, which were previously provided to the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, were released by OLC in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists.

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