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. Josh, Grand Rapids

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

    I am glad she's not a third-grade teacher.

    We really need to ship this one back to the permafrost.

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  2. kathy

    Maybe the question should have been phrased so Palin could understand it....a third grader seems to have more between their ears that she does. Palin was sequestered from the press and it's not hard to see why now that she's taking questions and giving interviews. She contradicts her running mate and then overstates her roles. she just doesn't know any better~ she is not qualified~

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. matt

    CNN's pulling out all the stops for Obama now it appears.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  4. Ross, Chautauqua, NY

    Apparently someone needs to give Palin an answer understandable by a third grader because she is ignorant of what the Vice President does, the office she aspires for.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  5. Thomas

    What else is new?

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  6. FreeNLovIt

    Yes, she needs to stay a little longer as a Governor and grow her brain. I love her to death, such great spirit, but wrong for the times.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. bob in spokane

    I am so sick of liberal bias. I am going to figure out how to hurt these guys in the pocket book. Boycott all liberal media. They need to be required to register as political action committees. Especially CNN the most untrusted source of news in the world.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. kim

    How many more times are we going to have to listen to her mistakes. She needs to go back to Alaska and shut up!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  9. Amazing

    This is crazy. Anyone, who votes for this ticket is stupid.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  10. TX Independent for Obama

    It's unreal. Shades of Dick Cheney without his brains.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. JM

    Good point Terry.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  12. Happy in Arizona

    If he in fact she was talking so a 3rd grader would understand clearly shows Palin thinks Americans are stupid.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. tws1906

    This just goes to show...the woman is stupid.

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

    »GO LOVELY SARAH! GO!

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  15. Dan, TX

    I guess if she hadn't been repeating the same statement to many different audiences, including her debate, we wouldn't care.

    Biden DOES know exactly the role of the VP in the Senate, having had the experience of being a senator.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. Christy

    Palin's a third grader. I'm sure it was easy for her to speak in terms a 3rd grader would understand. In fact, I'm sure she believes she would be the President of the senate with the ability to veto every democratic legislation that crossed her desk. Go Palin!

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  17. TomW

    Are you kidding me? She's had several weeks to get this straight. Ugh!

    Obama/Biden '08!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. Sam the Butcher

    This would be the 4th time she's failed miserably when asked publicly about the role of the Vice President.
    I know she couldn't tell Katie Couric what she reads, maybe in her spare time (between shopping like a diva on the RNC dime) she could read up on the US Constitution.
    Nahh, shopping, abusing power, getting the hair done and trying to cram for another lie-filled stump speech is too time consuming. Who needs the Constitution, W and Cheney already wiped their feet with it.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  19. DJ

    She answered the question in terms a third grader would understand because they're the only terms she knows herself. For crying out loud. There must be a third option aside from overexplain and confuse the kid and tell an out and out untruth.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  20. Karon

    Palin was talking down to a 3rd grader – she was showing that she isn't as smart as a 3rd grader!

    HOW on earth can you run for a job when you don't even know what they do? Dumb as dirt!

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  21. Sharon

    Someone....Anyone...
    Please get this woman off the TV screens.
    Palin is a disgrace to women all over the world.

    I'm a registered republican who is voting Obama because the thought of Palin in the White House scares me too much.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  22. Wayne in CA

    this about the third or forth time she has gotten this wrong...

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  23. Kris

    Good thing she wasn't talking to 6th graders...They might have corrected her on what the role of the VP really is. If she gets into office I may have to check out Canada.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. maylh

    LOL. No wonder she answered in such a way because her knowledge is at 3rd grade level, or less.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. Joe Unger

    This is getting old. If someone doesn't give a perfect answer every time they are ripe for critisicm? If Obama says his grandpa liberated Auschwitz and McCain says Shiite instead of Sunni, we can pounce on it and be immediately judgemental?
    And the incessant putdowns from the Obama supporters is as ugly as the Rove people in the last election.

    October 22, 2008 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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