Will Kamala Harris be paid more than Donald Trump’s No 2, Mike Pence? 12 perks of the US vice-president including an armoured car, Air Force Two and the White House cinema – when Joe Biden isn’t using it

Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris speaks in Wilmington, Delaware, US in November 2020. Photo: Reuters
While many people understand the financial perks of being the president and the luxurious amenities provided by the White House, you might not realise there are also quite a few benefits to being second-in-command. 

From access to Air Force Two to calling the vice-presidential residence home, here are 12 benefits exclusive to the veep.

Vice-presidents receive a generous salary plus cost-of-living adjustments

While the salary of the president is capped at US$400,000, the salary of the vice-president is more fluid, possibly due to the fact that the constitution said nothing about the vice-president’s earnings.

Vice-president Mike Pence speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in November 2020. Photo: AP

Vice-president Mike Pence earned US$230,700 in 2019 and it was set to increase to US$243,500 in 2020 due to the position’s pay freeze expiring, according to USA Today. However, instead Pence received a 1.9 per cent salary raise, the same raise allotted for all federal workers. This brought his expected current salary up to about US$235,100 per year.

They live at 1 Observatory Circle, a 9,150-square-foot mansion close to the White House

Number One Observatory Circle, the vice-president’s residence, close to the White House. Photo: @flywithkamala/Twitter

Built in 1893, 1 Observatory Circle has been the home of every vice-president since 1977. According to the White House, Walter Mondale was the first vice-president to call it home, and it has since been the primary residence of Bush, Quayle, Gore, Cheney, Biden, Pence and their families. 

The historic home features beautiful chandeliers, mahogany floors, black marble fireplaces, and a desk previously used by Theodore Roosevelt.

Vice-presidents can redecorate as they choose

Vice-presidents and their families have put their own personal touches on the home.


“It really changed from one administration to another,” Charles Denyer, a historian and the author of Number One Observatory Circle: The Home of the Vice-President of the United States, told USA Today in 2017. 

Dick Cheney and his family redecorated the home using a neutral colour scheme of creams and greens after moving in, while George H.W. Bush installed a horseshoe pit on the grounds during his term as number two. 

Vice-presidents have access to Air Force Two

Air Force Two and Vice-President Mike Pence. Photo: @TimBathKT/Twitter

While the president flies on a modified Boeing 747 dubbed Air Force One, the second-in-command travels on a Boeing 757 named Air Force Two.

The first lady, secretary of state, and vice-president are the most frequent fliers on Air Force Two, but the plane is only referred to by that name if the vice-president is on board.

They use military aircraft for official travel, which is paid for by the government

According to a report by Congress on presidential travel, both presidents and vice-presidents are entitled to government-sponsored travel while on official White House business. Food, lodging, car rentals and other incidentals are paid for by the government.

However, while the vice-president is always entitled to travel on military aircraft, the second spouse only uses a military aircraft when he or she accompanies the vice-president, or when he or she “is designated as the vice-president‘s representative to attend a special function”, the report states.

They also have access to armoured cars

The limousines used by the vice-president are noticeably smaller than those used by the president, which are known as “The Beasts”.

However, despite being smaller in size, the vice-president’s fleet of cars is just as protective. Both the vice-president’s and president’s motorcades are heavily armoured, bulletproof and bombproof.

After leaving office, vice-presidents have temporary Secret Service protection

Unlike the president who receives Secret Service protection for life, former vice-presidents are only protected for up to six months after the date they leave office. That amount of time can be increased by the Department of Homeland Security, according to USA Today, but it was not for Joe Biden, the last vice-president to leave office.

A staff of dozens of aides assist the vice-president

Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris has already announced her top aides. Her cabinet will include Tina Flournoy as chief of staff, a domestic policy adviser, and a national security adviser; Rohini Kosoglu as a domestic policy adviser; and Nancy McEldowney as a national security adviser.

If the president allows it, vice-presidents may enjoy White House amenities such as the cinema, putting green and bowling alley

In 2009, vice-president Joe Biden was photographed playing golf with president Barack Obama on the White House putting green.

However, that’s not all the White House has to offer. The presidential residence is also home to a bowling alley – which Melania Trump renovated – a basketball court, a restaurant and a cinema.

At official White House functions, vice-presidents enjoy food prepared by the executive chef and executive pastry chef

The White House executive chef and executive pastry chef are primarily hired to serve the first family and White House official functions. However, vice-presidents also take part in events that feature their culinary stylings.

Vice-presidents have the ability to break any tie votes in the Senate

As president of the Senate, the vice-president has the authority to cast a tiebreaking vote in the event that Congress cannot come to a decision. According to the United States Senate, 268 tiebreaking votes have been cast since 1789.

Vice-President Pence has cast the most tiebreaking votes of any vice-president since 1900, including multiple confirmations of Trump appointees.

Former vice-presidents receive a retirement income from their role as president of the Senate

Vice-presidents’ pensions depend largely upon how many years the vice-president has served in public office. For example, Biden reportedly received a US$1 million federal pension after leaving office in 2016 in exchange for his 43 years in public office, according to Forbes.

While not exactly a perk, all vice-presidents could become president

Though surely no vice-president would wish for the demise of the commander-in-chief, arguably the biggest honour and perk of being the vice-president is the opportunity to take over the position of president if they are no longer able to serve.

From left, vice-president Gerald Ford and House Speaker Carl Albert, listen to President Richard Nixon deliver his State of the Union address to Congress. Photo: AP

Eight vice-presidents have ascended to the presidency after the death of their president, while just one, Gerald R. Ford, became president upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon from office. However, more vice-presidents have also run for president after leaving office, including President-elect Joe Biden.

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider

US Politics

The likes of Al Gore and even Dan Quayle got a good salary – now US$235,000 – Secret Service protection, a staff of aides and the casting vote in the Senate