October 22nd, 2008
03:14 PM ET
6 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. Edward

    I love how the republicans run to her defense. Almost like, "poor Sarah. God bless her. Give the gal a break."

    SOME CARIBOU ARE APPLAUDING IN HEAVEN.

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  2. Charles

    She answered in terms that a 3rd grader would understand because that is the only level at which she can understand. She is a clueless, vapid moron with the intellectual capacity of a cow (no offense intended to any cows reading this).

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  3. Common Sense

    First, Democrat for McCain is way off base. Sounds like they are buying the right wing propoganda hook, line and sinker! That's what happens when someone allows talk radio to do the thinking for them. If all that rubbish were true, would he hold a security clearance?

    Secondly, Palin's concept of the VP's level of power sounds as if she's been hanging around Cheney too much. Talk about someone that manipulated his position to gain inordinate power and influence. The Bush administration's abuse of power for political gain has to be the most blatant in recent memory.

    Bottom line: McCain sold himself to the power brokers in the Republican Party, stepped away from many of his principles and allowed an unqualified person to be a candidate for VP.

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. PA Law

    It's not funny and not explainable either. You don't give a child wrong info so they will understand it better. You give them the right info and let them ask questions. Palin simply doesn't know what she's talking about!

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  5. ms j

    Palin, Palin, Palin.... YOU my dear was interviewed by a 3RD GRADER not Ms. Katie Curic or ABC, what's wrong with you? No, better yet what's wrong with US as Americans? The Republican Party would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces! The Alaskan people TOLD us we really didn't KNOW what WE were getting, that's why the MEDIA never interviewed an Alaskan who would have TOLD US who Palin and her Husband really were! The MEDIA kept these people Hidden, so we as Republicans could get Alaska's foot in the door, through McCain's choice of this woman, through Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Newgt Ginghrich! These guys KNEW OF Palin, but McCain (trying to get Hillary's voters to energize his camp) and the American had no Clue who Sarah Palin was or IS. Only 7 weeks, how long have we as Americans have known Joe Biden? Listen to her comments people, SHE wants CONTROL of the White House and She said that to a 3rd Grader! Question, Could it be that Palin doesn't even consider McCain's Judgements either? Just a Thought!

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  6. 12 HOUSES to 0

    SARAH IS A PERFECT EXSAMPLE OF

    MCIDIOT'S THINKING OR LACK THEREOF.

    SHE CAN'T ANSWERER A QUESTION FROM A 3rd. GRADER,

    BUT HE WANTS HER TO BE VP.& POSSIBLY PRESIDENT OF

    THIS COUNTRY. HE IS OUT OF HIS GREEDY IGNORANT MIND !!!

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  7. Liam

    Sarah Palin gave the same description of the VP position, when asked about it during the VP debate, so the excuse about her talking in a manner that a third grader could understand, is a phony excuse. She said the same thing to all the adults in the country who watched her debate Senator Biden.

    She was not talking to a third grader. She was asked it on a live TV interview. She was talking like a third grader. That is the real problem. She has had plenty of time to read the part of the constitution that spells out the role of a VP. That fact that she still does not have a grasp of what the position entails, disqualifies her for the position, let alone have her take over as president, if the president could not carry on.

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  8. Veronica

    Can someone tell her to please stop answering questions in a way kids understand and NOT adults. She never answers questions inteligently and her answers are STUPID! She is way over her head and to tell you the truth I don't like or trust her. She gives us women a bad reputation ..... not all of us are stupid like Palin is.

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. Jerry

    The explanation of these comments is an insult to 3rd graders.

    They have a FAR better understanding of our constitution than Palin.

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  10. Stephen

    Wow....the more she speaks the more obvious it becomes that she is an empty suit with note cards and a teleprompter. No matter how anyone tries to spin her comments, she comes across to most intelligent people as a light weight.

    She probably thinks that she would be able to charge the US Senate for her children's plane tickets from Alaska while she would be presiding over the Senate and being the maverick that she is....HA HA!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  11. stephen

    half of the clowns that reply to this article wouldn't know the difference either. sarah palin's attraction isn't her inside washington knowledge – it's the fact she's a refreshingly honest voice who believes in her country not like the communist wanna be.

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  12. John in UPST NY

    I TELL YOU PEOPLE ARE A BUNCH OF BASHING LIBS----–DO YOU REMEMBER BIDEN SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT OBAMA IS GOING TO BE TESTED IN NEXT 6 MONTHS BY OUR FORIEGN PEOPLE LIKE IRAN ....KOREA ...ETC........IF ELECTED ...THATS LIKE A INVITE TO TERROR ...MY GAWD.....TELL ME WHATS WORSE A MIS-STATEMENT BY PALIN ...OR BIDEN SAYING THIS .........GAWD LIBS YOU HAVE NO SENSE OF DIRECTION----------I BET MOST OF YOU SPOKE AND DIDNT KNOW WHAT U WERE TALKIN ABOUT

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  13. KofTX

    This person is CLUELESS...

    Totally unqualified!

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  14. Julian

    Sarah Palin's spokesperson said that she was explaining the role in a way that only a child can understand. Well, that's an acceptable reason. Except she stated the same thing during the recent Vice Presidential debate, and Joe Biden replied by giving her a ten-second lesson on the Constitutionally-specified role of a Vice President. So, the argument that she was just explaining it to a kid doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Joe Biden, the moderator, and most of the people watching that debate are not kids. And the fact that she made the same mistake now shows that she either wants to control the Senate, forgot Joe Biden's lesson, or has really bad memory. In any case, it's a bad reflection on her.

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. Gracie

    NOT QUALIFIED TO BE VICE PRESIDENT!

    NOT QUALIFIED TO BE VICE PRESIDENT!

    NOT QUALIFIED TO BE VICE PRESIDENT!

    NOT QUALIFIED TO BE VICE PRESIDENT!

    NOT QUALIFIED TO BE VICE PRESIDENT!

    NOT QUALIFIED TO BE VICE PRESIDENT!

    NOT QUALIFIED TO BE VICE PRESIDENT!

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    I loved that moment in the VP debate when Biden, a Constitutional law prof, himself, at Wiedner Univ. in Delaware, set Simple Sarah straight on the duties of the VP as regards the Senate, vis a vie the CONSTITUTION. Anyone hearing Palin speak these words, heck hearing her speak ANY words, should be very, very frightened of her.
    How 'bout her statement that "God will do the right thing on Nov. 4". God already led me to cast my vote last Saturday for Obama/Biden. I pray that everyone else does the same!
    YES WE CAN!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. Laura

    Sarah says ' Wha ...?"!!! she read that the cloth will be given to charity after this is all over.

    but then she calm down and remember that she is charity.

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. Florence, SC

    If she doesnt know what she is suppose to do – how can she tell us what McCain will do.

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. Blue

    Just think, Palin's for home schooling!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. Knucklehead

    What's the big deal? Palin directs all her answers to 3rd graders. The VP "can really get in there?" What does that mean?

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. Susan

    I don't know who's the scariest - McCain or Palin - tough call! Before you vote, please google PNAC and John McCain - shocking!

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  22. chelle

    Joe Biden also said he clearly understood the constitutional role of Vice-President, BUT he wanted to use the role to help implement the President's policies – somewhat different from Dick Cheney who acted first and then informed the President what the policy now was!!

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  23. Lisa

    This stupid old man brought this Moose Bimbo to the stage.
    This moran puppet should shut her mouth.
    They both should return to their A homes- Arizona and Alaska and leave the big A – America to Obama.
    Vote Obama / Biden

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  24. Patriot

    This is from the woman who is out there bashing Obama everyday, claiming that the White House is no place for "on the job training." Governor, you don't even know what the VP job entails as put forth in the Constitution.

    And for all the Repubs accusing some bloggers of bashing and not being noble, I ask you this: Which candidates are calling a US Senator a terrorist, socialist, and communist? McCain and Palin are dividing the nation, while Obama and Biden are trying to unite it.

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  25. L2002

    This is news? Talk about a mountain out of a molehill. The constitution says that the VP is president of the senate. "In charge of" is not a precise or "lawyerly" way of stating it, but it's a fine common sense articulation of Palin's point. She was responding to a third grader's question! It seems to me, she is just stating the obvious: that she intends to advocate for legislation resembling McCain's policies. Exactly what Biden said of his role as VP. Shocking! And don't you think it's at least a good idea for the VP to be informed of senate business in the event he or she does have to break a tie? Or would you all prefer that the tie-breaker flip a coin?

    It is becoming ever clearer to me that candidates need to go to law school in order to learn how to appear they are giving substantive answers when they in fact are not. Obama, for instance, has mastered the art of the point-by-point statement. "Let me give you specifics: #1: I would , #2: I would ..." you get the picture.

    As for Biden, I think he's an underreported disaster. How come Palin's response to a third grader gets full coverage and a photo, and Biden's comment is practically a footnote? Looks like CNN is in a contest with MSNBC, and gaining significant ground. I'll leave it to the public to determine what that contest might be.

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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