Legally speaking, is there any laws against a former president that has served 2 terms from being vice president?

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    If the former president was allowed to be vice president later, they might be ineligible and therefore unable to take the presidency if the need arose suddenly. So presidency might fall to the second person in line - which I believe is Paul Ryan today.
    – Criggie
    Dec 20, 2018 at 7:17
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    @Criggie but someone ineligible to be president cannot be vice president, so that won't happen.
    – phoog
    Dec 20, 2018 at 9:14
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    @phoog that's an answer then because it directly answers OP's question - a former president can't be vice president because they could never step up to president if the need arose - you should add it as an answer.
    – Criggie
    Dec 20, 2018 at 12:50
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    I could have sworn there was a clause somewhere that prohibited a former President from ever holding any other public office again. But maybe not since I'd assume that would have been mentioned in at least some of the answers.
    – aleppke
    Dec 20, 2018 at 20:04
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    @aleppke, no such clause. The only office a former President is prohibited from holding is the Vice-Presidency. The "no other public office" deal is a convention, not a prohibition, at least in part because the only other offices with similar levels of power are unelected (Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, and Justice of the Supreme Court).
    – Mark
    Dec 20, 2018 at 21:25

3 Answers 3


The last sentence of the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that

But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States. [source]

According to the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution

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 the President more than once. [source]

This should legally forbid a former President that has served 2 terms (or more then 1 term and 2 years) from becoming Vice President.

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    There is however some uncertainty as to whether the quoted portion of the 22nd Amendment makes the ex-VP "constitutionally ineligible to the office of President," or if it merely makes the ex-VP ineligible to win an election (which just so happens to bestow the presidency).
    – Kevin
    Dec 19, 2018 at 23:36
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    I think the 22nd Amendment is probably irrelevant here. But the 12th Amendment... It would be interesting to see that play out in court if this ever actually happened. I can see both sides of that argument now.
    – Wes Sayeed
    Dec 20, 2018 at 0:21
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    @DrunkCynic: I should have made my problem clearer: Ineligible quite literally means not able to be elected (if it weren’t borrowed from French directly, the English language would probably have used unelectable instead). Also: Is there any law, legal principle, or similar that yields that “The only eligibility restrictions on being president are detailed in Article II”?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 20, 2018 at 5:23
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    @Wrzlprmft: My first instinct was the same as yours, but having thought about it for a bit further, I think that "eligible" doesn't mean exactly the same as "able to be elected", in that the restrictions in Article II are widely taken to be restrictions on who can become president at all, not just by election. For example, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is not considered to be in the line of succession, because she's not a "natural born citizen". So the meaning of the word eligible has strayed a bit from what its etymology might lead us to expect.
    – ruakh
    Dec 20, 2018 at 7:46
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    @RickRyker the less-than-half-a-term criterion comes into play only for a president who comes to the office without being elected. The first clause provides that nobody shall be elected more than twice, without regard to how much of the term of office was actually served. Nixon did not have any possibility of being elected again regardless of the timing of his resignation.
    – phoog
    Dec 20, 2018 at 9:18

The only correct answer to this question is that nobody knows, and it is unlikely that anyone will ever know. The phrasing of the Constitution and the intersection of Article II and the 12th and 22nd Amendments are ambiguous (as has been discussed in the comments on other answers), and so it would take a Supreme Court ruling to decide the issue. But because of the ambiguity, it is politically impossible for any two-term President to stand for election as Vice President (or be nominated to fill a vacancy), and so the Supreme Court will never be called upon to rule.



The Measures of eligibility to be President are detailed by Article II, seen below:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

These are extended to the Vice-President, via the 12th Amendment:

...But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

While the text of the 22nd Amendment, as understood in the language of the age in which it was drafted and the surrounding debate, stops an individual from being elected to a third term, or a 2nd term after serving a term and more than two years of a preceding term, it doesn't constitute an additional measure of eligibility.

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.

There is distinction between being eligible to hold the office and being elected to the office. As things stand, there isn't a Constitutional or legal hurdle stopping an individual for joining a ticket as the Vice-President.

The Constitution is the foundational document of the national government for the United States. It delineates how the government is constructed, who can be president, and who can be elected as president (with the 22nd Amendment). There is not a point, legislatively, beneath the Constitution that could constrain this matter; that is why it required an Amendment to detail term limits for the President, how the Vice President would be elected, and path of succession in case of disability. This stems from the Supremacy clause of the same document, Article VI, clause II.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

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    This answer is incorrect because if an anachronistic interpretation of "ineligible." When the constitution was drafted, the words "electable" and "unelectable" had not yet come into use, and "ineligible" meant "unable to be elected." Therefore, the 22nd amendment had the effect of prohibiting twice-elected former presidents (among others) from becoming vice president.
    – phoog
    Dec 20, 2018 at 9:27
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    @phoog No. Eligibility does not translate to "unable to be elected" in the parlance The Constitutional Convention, or the debate for ratification. To this end, I'll include the multitude of uses from the Federalist papers, and other period writings, showing the use of the word. Dec 20, 2018 at 13:11
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    I await that with interest. I note however that the fact that "eligible" was used to mean "able to be selected" does not exclude its use also to mean "able to be elected," so the absence of another word with that sense continues to be significant. I also question the premise that the Article II restrictions somehow have a different status than those of the 22nd Amendment.
    – phoog
    Dec 20, 2018 at 18:59
  • @phoog After industrial business hours, CST. Dec 20, 2018 at 19:02
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    @uxp No. The president is not elected until the electoral votes are counted in the Senate in January immediately following the general election. At that time, all ineligible electoral votes would be discarded. Of course, the Senate would be required to vote on what was an eligible vote. Only if the Senate insisted on counting a vote as eligible that was later challenged as being Constitutionally ineligible would the Supreme Court end up ruling on any particular person as being ineligible for the office. It would never get that far. The Senate would reject all ineligible votes.
    – Rick Ryker
    Apr 10, 2019 at 15:22

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