October 22nd, 2008
03:14 PM ET
5 years ago

Palin takes heat for saying VP 'in charge' of the Senate

CNN

Watch Palin's comments on KUSA Wednesday.

(CNN) – Sarah Palin is taking heat Wednesday for appearing to overstate the role of vice president, saying in a recent interview that she would be "in charge of the Senate" should John McCain win the White House.

The comments came in an interview with Colorado TV station KUSA in response to a third-grader's question, "What does the Vice President do?”

"[T]hey’re in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom," she said.

The comments have drawn criticism from Democrats and liberal blogs which note the actual role of the vice president when it comes to the Senate is simply to cast a tie-breaking vote in the event of a stalemate. According to Article I of the U.S. Constitution, the vice president is the "President" of the Senate, but has no executive position when it comes to presiding over the chamber.

Donald Ritchie, a historian in the Senate Historical Office told CNN that Palin's comment was an "overstatement" of what her role would be.

"The vice president is the ceremonial officer of the Senate and has certain ceremonial functions including swearing in new senators and can vote to break a tie," he said. "It’s a relatively limited role. It's evolved into a neutral presiding officer of the Senate.

Ritchie also noted recent vice presidents have played a behind-the-scenes lobbying role on Capitol Hill for an administration's policies, but called it "somewhat limited."

"It's not comparable to the Speaker of the House who is certainly in charge of the House," he said. "The slogan that political scientists use is that the House is ruled by the chair and the Senate is ruled by the floor…the senators are in charge of the Senate."

Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for Palin, said the Alaska governor was simply answering the question in a way a third-grader could understand.

"Governor Palin was responding to a third grader's inquiry," she said. "She was explaining in terms a third-grader could understand that the vice-president is also president of the U.S. Senate."

In an interview with CBS earlier this month, Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden also said he hoped to play an influential role in the legislative branch if Barack Obama wins the White House.

"I hope one of my roles as vice president will be as the person actually implementing Barack Obama's policy. You gotta get the Congress to go along with it," he said. "And it's presumptuous to say, but I know it pretty well. And I think I am fairly respected on both sides of the aisle."


Filed under: Sarah Palin
soundoff (1,202 Responses)
  1. Obama Mamma

    right..... she was talking to a third grader in third grader language. I am sure this third grader's teacher, and all the other teachers, are going to appreciate having to undo this "lesson." what happened to responsibility?
    I

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  2. Todd M

    Since when is teaching our kids the wrong information OK? I would think that the VP candidate would be very interested in at least getting the information correct.

    Why do they think that a 3rd grader couldn't understand that there are 100 Senators and sometimes they tie at 50-50. Then the VP gets to break the tie with the 101st vote? Is that so hard to understand?

    Jeez no wonder our kids are lagging behind. Our leaders act like they're stupid and tell them the wrong information.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. MN for Obama

    Yeah Bob, you go ahead and boycott the 'liberal media'...I'm sure that 'fair and balanced' FoxNews with their infomercial quality "interviews" will really ask those hard-hitting questions. Palin abused power as a governor and called Obama unpatriotic. Wow, did the Republicans find the next McCarthy? Absolutely pathetic.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Ron from Baltimore

    DUNCE!

    Now her people will come back and insist she was "talking down so as to be understood by the third grader." In fact, it was a third-grader's question asked by the reporter; she was responding to the adult reporter.

    How can McCain let his staff get away with this sickly lack of preparation? There is time for wardrobe (who believes we've seen her wearing $150,000 worth of clothes and make-up?!), for rote training with talking points she barely remembers and spouts in various random mixes of data, and for flying her family around. But no time for examining either the Constitution, or the role of the VP to which she aspires?

    McCain-what have you done?? What a laughing stock you have made the U.S. of A.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  5. Lesley

    Shades of Dan Quayle. When will the Repubs learn not to talk to kids. Stick to adults who apparently don't know as much. Way to win over Colorado!

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Danny

    Matthew 10:26 (KJV)
    Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. wait a minute

    Why don't we ask both Palin and Hillary or all candidates for a qualified exam for the White House?

    At least, Palin gets to where she is all by herself and she has years of executive experience. Why could Hillary run for president and Palin can't run for vice president? This is absurd. BTY, I am still undecided.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. sully

    why don't mcain wear a flag pin

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. voter

    bob in spokane

    Stop with the excuse of the liberal media because your candidate choose a vp that is not qualified. Three times Palin has been asked the question about the vp job and has been corrected 3 times. she still can't say what the job is yet she is applying for it. in real life, she will not be hired in a coporation if she does not know what the job entails or her qualifications don't match.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Blue is my favourite colour

    Sarah, c'mon....are you trying to give McCain a heart attack?

    If ignorance continues to flow out of your mouth, John McCain will suffer a CVA or heart attack due to the amount of stress this causes. You will be robbing the country the chance to see his face when he loses the election. So be quiet so the rest of us can enjoy the show.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. The Cosmos & McCain Rocks!!

    »I LOVE SARAH PALIN!Oooh! »I am GOING to A....ALASKA!I am going to ALASKA!! Aaah! YES!

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. j

    Palin's gotten the VP job description wrong at least 4 times. America doesn't need another Cheney (or worse) in the VP role.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. P. D.

    This would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. This woman is not qualified to be V.P. Just look at the polls. Americans know she isn't ready to lead. And if she is re-elected as Goveror in Alaska, I would be suprised.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  14. Bobby

    Even with my Dad being a Vietnam Vet, I believe in the basic tenets of fiscal conservatism and was a former Reagan fan, I voted this election AGAINST Palin. She has the qualifications of a secretary in training and I don't want that a heartbeat away from the Presidency. We are a laughing stock to the whole world and to all who would otherwise have voted for John McCain.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. Gal, Ohio

    I've already said "Thanks but No Thanks" to Sarah Palin.
    GOTV

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  16. NYC NATIVE

    WOW WHAT A STATEMENT... WHATS SAD ABOUT IT IS IF SHE CAN'T TEACH THE YOUTH CORRECTLY HOW WILL SHE LEAD THE COUNTRY..

    SHE IS VERY SHALLOW AND NOT WELL REHERSED AT ALL.

    I CAN'T BELIVE THAT ANYONE WHO IS LIVING IN AMERICA WITH THE ISSUES THAT ARE AHEAD OF US WILL VOTE FOR THESE IDIOTS..

    ANOTHER NOTE..

    ON SNL LIVE PEOPLE WEREN'T LAUGHING WITH HER THEY WERE LAUGHING AT HER THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE..

    WHAT DO YOU THINK THE LEADERS AND CITIZENS OF OTHER COUNTRIES WILL DO IF THE "FALSE TALK EXPRESS" WERE TO GET IN OFFICE..

    UMMM... YOU GUESSED IT LAUGH AT US ALL!!!

    OBAMA AND BIDEN 08

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  17. Greg in Mpls

    For anyone who keeps complaining about the media does this, the media does that, the media is so liberal...I want to remind you about something...Palin WAS PART OF THE MEDIA!!!!

    Her degree is in journalism! She was a TV reporter (granted, she did the sports, but she was still a reporter)! If anyone should be able to handle the media, it should be her!!!

    Don't deal with the media as it "should be", deal with it as "it is" and think before you speak! She is setting herself up for all this negative attention and she should know better.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  18. SoCal

    The job of the VP is to wink at the camera during interviews...
    I betcha!

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. Chi4Obama

    Yawn,
    Sarah Palin once again proves her political ignorance.

    But guess what,
    After Nov. 4th, this power hungry moose can take her hind parts back to Alaska where she belongs.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  20. What's Wrong with Sarah's Eyes?

    Sarah, keep the interviews coming.

    I'm creating a BIG THANK YOU CARD for you...in crayon. Will send on November 5. I'll use small words-wink, wink

    Obama/Biden 08/12

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  21. Ohio Independent

    Oh my god, she does not know what she is talking about. Do we really want this person representing us in the White House –NOT...

    Thanks but no thanks Sarah

    Obama / Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  22. JM

    In the debate she was actually right and Biden was wrong. Look it up in the constitution.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. Kevin

    This just in! Sarah Palin and Jessica Simpson are the same person!

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  24. Biff

    There were SOOOOOO many MORE qualified republican women to choose from....

    this is where McCain lost this election.... mark my words.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  25. Harry

    You freaking liberals are blowing this out of proportion. Dem's have even used in charge term before when they were in office. She was talking to a third grader for one. The official term for VP is President of Senate. You talk to a 3rd grader its easier to say that instead of a million words. Get over it.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
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