A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Vice President Bill Clinton?


Q: Could former President Bill Clinton be vice president?

A: Probably not, but it’s an untested constitutional conundrum.

FULL QUESTION

If Hillary Clinton were to win the Democratic nomination for president, could she have Bill Clinton as her running mate?

FULL ANSWER

The original Constitution had no requirements for the office of vice president. However, the 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, said that, "no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States."

So that would mean that a vice president would have to meet the requirements to be president laid out in Article II of the Constitution. Principally, the person would have to be born in the United States, be at least 35 years of age and have been a resident of this country for the preceding 14 years. So far, so good. Maybe a former president, like Bill Clinton, could serve as vice president.

However, the 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951, said:

22nd Amendment: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once.

So this sets up the conundrum. The 22nd Amendment says that Clinton can clearly not "be elected" to the presidency. And the 12th Amendment says that no one can become vice president if they are "ineligible to the office of the presidency."

Clinton has been elected to the presidency twice. So he can no longer be "elected" to the presidency, according to the language of the 22nd Amendment. Does that  mean he is "constitutionally ineligible" to serve as president, to use the language of the 12th Amendment? If so, he could not serve as vice president. But finding out would certainly make for an interesting Supreme Court case.

An even more intriguing question might be whether Bill Clinton would want the office, or whether Hillary Clinton would want him there. Plus, having both the presidential and vice presidential candidates from the same state could affect the votes the pair could garner in the Electoral College.

The 12th Amendment says, "The electors shall … vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves." That means that Bill and Hillary could not both get the 31 electoral votes of New York state, unless one of them moved. The electors would have to vote for only one of them, potentially sending the presidential race to the House of Representatives or the vice presidential one to the Senate in a very close election. However, one of them could always declare residency in their old state, Arkansas, like Dick Cheney did in 2000, when he switched his residency from Texas, also George W. Bush’s home state, to Wyoming, where Cheney previously had lived. 

Justin Bank

Correction, Feb. 29: Our original item included the wrong year for ratification of the 22nd Amendment. It was ratified in 1951, and the error has been corrected.

Sources

Article I, U.S. Constitution

Article II, U.S. Constitution

22nd amendment, U.S. Constitution.

12th amendment, U.S. Constitution.

"12th Amendment: What it Means," JusticeLearning.org.