In June, House investigators revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney had exempted his office from an executive order order designed to safeguard classified national security information by claiming that the Office of the Vice President is not an “entity within the executive branch.”
After Congressional Democrats called his bluff by threatening to withhold funding from his office, the White House was forced to roll back their rhetoric, claiming “that the rationale had been the view of the vice president’s lawyers, not Cheney himself.”
Mark Knoller: Are you part of the executive branch, sir?
Vice President Cheney: Well, the job of Vice President is an interesting one, because you have a foot in both the executive and the legislative branch. Obviously, I have an office in the West Wing of the White House, I am an adviser to the president, I sit as a member of the National Security Council. At the same time, under the constitution, I have legislative responsibilities. I’m actually paid by the Senate, not by the executive. […]
KNOLLER: But you are principally a part of the executive branch, are you not?
CHENEY: Well, I suppose you could argue it either way. The fact is I do work in both branches.
Cheney conceded that he was part of the executive branch during the two hours and five minutes he served as acting President two weeks ago while Bush was in surgery. Throughout the entire interview, however, he refused to say whether or not the Office of the Vice President itself was classified as part of the executive branch.
Cheney has been happy to treat the Office of the Vice President as part of the executive branch when it suits his political purposes:
- In 2001, the White House argued that a probe into Cheney’s energy task force “would unconstitutionally interfere with the functioning of the executive branch.”
- Cheney himself said that the probe concerned “meetings in the Executive Branch between the Vice President and other individuals.”
- On April 9, 2003, Cheney lauded a recent court ruling, stating, “I think it restored some of the legitimate authority of the executive branch, the president and the vice president, to be able to conduct their business.”
Now that the political tempest over Cheney’s exemption of his office has subsided a bit, the Vice President is back to claiming he is a branch of government all to himself — or as he says it, “a unique creature” in constitutional government.
The full interview can be heard here.