"The formal powers and role of the vice president are limited by the Constitution to becoming president should the president become unable to serve (e.g. due to the death, resignation, or medical impairment of the president) and acting as the presiding officer of the United States Senate. As President of the Senate, the vice president has two primary duties: to cast a vote in the event of a senate deadlock and to preside over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral College." Wiki below.
There is no power inherent in the office of vice president of the United States other than those enumerated above.
Unless the president gives the vice president functional power by executive order (as GW Bush did with Cheney) the holder of this office has no real significance in American government other than as successor to the president.
Bush '43 gave Cheney a lot of power, effectively making him a kind of co-president. This was never intended by the framers. Some vice-presidents have spent little time in Washington during their incumbency, finding better things to do. Harry Truman famously had not been told of the existence of the Manhattan Project before FDR's easily anticipated death. Roosevelt evidently did not think that he had a need to know.
The lawyers can inform as to whether the executive orders through which Cheney was endowed with so much power will automatically lapse wen he and "W" leave office.
Whether they do or not, the next president will have to decide if he wants to cede so much authority to someone who may or may not have the same agenda as he. The creation of the Cheney premiership gave Cheney a sense of himself that most presidents will not want to see. When Cheney shot his hunting companion, he did not bother to inform the president for a couple of days in spite of the media problem that this incident was certain to cause.
Both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are people with strong opinions. Will the next president want a semi-independent actor on the scene in his administration?
The president needs the help? No. The government does not need an alternative locus of power in the executive branch. pl
2016 – Addendum. This post was first published in September, 2008. IMO it should be remembered that the VP is not the president's deputy. He/she/it is separately elected. so far as I know they could be of different parties. pl