Wednesday, November 28, 2007

November 27, 1973:

The Senate Confirms Ford as VP

The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution specifies that in filling a vacancy in the vice presidency -- something that occurred no fewer than 16 times before the amendment was adopted in 1967 -- the president's choice needs confirmation "by a majority vote of both houses of Congress."

In 1973, such a confirmation happened for the first time when Richard Nixon selected Gerald Ford to fill the vacancy created by Spiro Agnew's resignation. The Senate voted first, 34 years ago today, and it was an overwhelming vote in favor of Ford. Perhaps that was partly because Ford was not Nixon's first choice; he was his last choice.

Ford's biography on the US Senate web site has this to say: "Nixon knew that Democrats felt apprehensive about confirming someone who might be a strong contender for the presidency in 1976 and that they preferred 'a caretaker Vice President who would simply fill out Agnew's unexpired term.' Nixon wanted to appoint his Treasury Secretary, John Connally, but after meeting with the Democratic congressional leadership he concluded that Connally would have a difficult time being confirmed. At Camp David, Nixon prepared an announcement speech with four endings, one each for Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan, Connally, and Ford. Looking through the names that Republican party leaders had suggested, he found that Rockefeller and Reagan had tied, Connally was third, and Ford last. However, among members of Congress, including such Democrats as Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and House Speaker Carl Albert, Ford's name came in first and, as Nixon noted, 'they were the ones who would have to approve the man I nominated.' As Speaker Albert later asserted, 'We gave Nixon no choice but Ford.'

"The Watergate scandal had so preoccupied and weakened Nixon that he could not win a fight over Connally. Choosing either Rockefeller or Reagan would likely split the Republican party. That left Ford. Nixon reasoned that, not only were Ford's views on foreign and domestic policy practically identical with his, but that the House leader would be the easiest to confirm. He had also received assurances that Ford 'had no ambitions to hold office after January 1977,' which would clear the path for Connally to seek the Republican presidential nomination...

"Ford's nomination was subject to confirmation in both the Senate and House, where Democrats held commanding majorities... Liberals expressed displeasure with Ford's conservative voting record on social welfare and other domestic issues and his undeviating loyalty to President Nixon's foreign policies but did not believe they could withhold confirmation merely because of policy disagreements. A few liberals, led by New York Rep. Bella Abzug, tried to block action on Ford's nomination, anticipating that Nixon's eventual removal would make House Speaker Albert president. Albert, however, pushed for Ford's speedy confirmation...

"On November 27 the Senate voted 92 to 3 to confirm Ford, and on December 6, the House agreed, 387 to 35 (with Ford voting "present"). President Nixon wanted Ford to take the oath of office in the East Room of the White House, but Ford thought it more appropriate to hold the ceremony in the Capitol, where he had served for a quarter of a century..."

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