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. DarrylC

    Palin was right.

    The U.S. Constitution states:

    "The Vice-President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.
    The Senate shall choose their other officers, and also a President pro tempore, in a the absence of the Vice-President, or when he shall exercise the office of President of the United States."

    While the VP does not traditionally appear on a regular basis to run the Senate, she certainly can. When VP Jefferson attended many sessions and wrote a procedure manual for the Senate. While she can only vote in the event of a tie, she can be there as she pleases.

    Don't confuse tradition with authority.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  2. Brian

    I guess the 3rd grader who asked the question is part of the 'gotcha liberal media' too?

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  3. Deane

    I can't remember the last time I saw someone so completely unaware of her personal limitations.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  4. Emma

    Do third graders not know what a tie is?

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  5. Government Teacher

    Article I Section 3:
    The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

    I believe that she was attempting to speak to these students in terms that they could understand. Also, was Biden correct in his evaluation of the role of the vice-president:

    "The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

    And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

    The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney..."

    The Constitution is explicit in that it gives the VP the role as president of the Senate.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. Patski

    Montreal

    Who hired this guy? He appears to be interviewing a 3rd grader.
    The interview with Palin was a complete farce. Who gave him the questions?

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  7. JustAskin'

    If Palin/McCain were to somehow win the election, will the taxpayers have to pay for a special aide to Palin....you know..."Chief of the Explaining"? There...Also?

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  8. Sam

    I watched her on CNN interview and I did not understand what she was saying. Did she really graduate journalism college?

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  9. TC, Fl

    That's no worse than what the 'experienced' Joe Biden said about his VP role.

    Talking of whom, where is the report about his comment on Obama being 'tested' in the first 6 months, if he should get elected? Freudian slip about how inexperienced Obama is?

    At least Hillary had the guts to come right out with the truth. The Democratic party sure lost out by not nominating her.

    Nobama, no way!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  10. Susanne.NM

    This woman can't name one other Supreme Court decision beside Roe vs. Wade and now wants to overstate the role of the VP?
    Has she even read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights?
    This woman scares me and should scare every one in America.

    Obama/Biden 08 and 12!

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  11. RR in AZ

    I findly found someone who is dumber than "Jethro Bodine" of the Beverly Hillbillies.....

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  12. johnson

    Boy this is the one AMERICA needs this gives a new meaning to the word dumb.But one thing we can say palin deserves respect for giving all this creat material to comedians

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  13. Amy

    Nice try Maria, but Gov Palin gave a similar answer during the vice presidential debate.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  14. Ann

    SHE WAS NOT WRONG!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. Chi4Obama

    The only non-partisian, and sane person that should be supporting the McCain-Palin ticket at this point, is Tina Fey from SNL. Palin has helped to make her famous, with all of her ignorant gaffs.

    Nice VP pick McCain.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  16. E

    Obviously her "experience" has nothing to do with basic constitutional laws and understanding how the federal government works... If only we had a candidate who was a constitutional law scholar... oh wait we do.

    Maybe if she spent less time praying for God to hand her the election and mocking people who do charitable work to help the poor and spent more time actually learning how the government works she wouldn't make such stupid mistakes.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. Fran

    McBush/Palin, thanks but no thanks.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 08

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  18. AZ Obama Fan

    As long as she continues to converse with third graders, the world is safe. Of course, she may think that third graders can vote.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  19. Joe

    Unbelievable! She makes Bush look like a scholar. And that's extremely hard to do, but she's making it look easy. A gimmick that worked for a week. Then she started talking.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  20. Pat

    The silly "explanation" is off base and insulting to third graders and their teachers. Third graders are taught better and knew she gave the wrong answer.

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

    Sarah, you are so clueless. Here is some advice Hon. Buy yourself your own wardrobe, pay for your own kids to travel and pick up a book on the subject of the Vice-Presidency......not that you will actually need it.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  22. Sherry

    US Constitution Article 1 The Legislative Branch; Section 3 The Senate states:

    The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  23. OBAMA 4 President

    It just shows even more of her ignorance about how the US govt works, but worse is her arrogance for not staying on her scripts. When you don't have in depth knowledge of the issues, you stay on scripts or talking points, that way you avoid errors and gaffes.

    She obviously has an inflated opinion of her own capabilities, reminds me of George Bush trippping himself up for 8 years solid, talk about self abuse!

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  24. Stickyideas

    Congratulations Barack and Joe! You've already won the hearts and minds of this country.

    Our thoughts are with the Obamas and their family during this difficult time.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  25. republican female vet 4 obama

    Every time she opens her mouth is one of the many reasons I will be voting the Democratic ticket this time around!

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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