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. LIP

    This is totally ridiculous...CNN has to dredge this up again...the experts on this VP crap have already come out and said Biden was wrong and Palin was right. Must you constantly belittle this woman?

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  2. Tony

    I don't understand how some people can at all dislike Bush/Cheney and yet still be in favor of McCain/Palin. She embodies everything of the past 8 years in one person. She's not smart, she can't speak clearly unless having studied for a week beforehand or reading off of something else, she's extremely religiously ignorant (which may be the most dangerous thing of all in the current state of the world), hates those of us who don't have a small town mind and are apparently not in her definition of pro america, and worst of all she is trying to seize more power than she should have before she's even made it to the office.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  3. Mr. Smith Former Republican

    Wow....unbelieveable.....is she also aware that the VP also's takes out the trash for the President on their way home from the big office...see folks..this is why we must vote Obama...

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  4. Hicks

    Typical Sarah. Just another way for her to abuse her powers again, huh? She has absolutely no understanding of anything in government. But I have to say, I love it when she opens her mouth and makes stupid comments. It's my laugh of the day!
    Go home, Sarah. We're tired of your mouth runneth over.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  5. Shirley-Ohio

    She is just palin ditsy and childish acting. Maybe 12 years from now she will be ready to run for president. She just needs to educate herself a little better. Her college degree is in jouralism.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  6. PATTY

    THAT'S RIGHT, KEEP TALKIN', SARAH.....LET THOSE WORDS FLOW RIGHT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.....YOU CERTAINLY WILL CLOSE THE DEAL FOR MCCAIN TO PACK HIS BAGS AND GO BACK TO PHOENIX...

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  7. Alan

    This is the woman who will be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Closer than that, given McCain's age and past medical history. MUCH closer. The odds, if I was a bookmaker, are favorable she WOULD have to step in and run the country. And she's nowhere near prepared.

    Obama can consult with Biden on his weak areas. If something happens to Obama, Biden is ready to lead.

    In many ways, it's actually more important that the vice president be seasoned and professional and ready to go than it is the president. And even Sarah Palin's own party has many calling her unprepared for the job.

    This, plus the fact that this nation right now MUST pull itself out of this financial quagmire fast and the fiscal proposals of McCain/Palin in no way reflect reality, makes the choice at this point in the race painfully clear.

    The Republicans always call Democrats "tax and spend." That is, unfortunately, what is required for a BALANCED budget. It will NEVER be balanced under the current Republican standard of BORROW and spend.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. Japheth Phelps

    Cnn,

    Your trying to destroy Sarah because your affraid of her. How about Obama saying there are fifty seven states, or Bidens many gaffes. Oh by the way, Obama isn't even a United States citizen, get some real news besides defending Obama on his scary pathetic friends and stances.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. hitout

    She is funny...
    This might have been sufficient answer for a preschooler but most third graders are lot smarter than that.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Ian

    So neither Biden nor Palin (funny how they sound so similar) knows what the VP does?

    God help us all, why do we keep electing the same idiots over and over again?

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. the queen of Zenobia.

    Sarah!, please don't be our kids teacher, your lack of knowledge could be potentially dangerous to upcoming generations, the educational system already sucks, please don't make it worse. I urge you to go and read more about the constitution, that will make you look more patriotic, come on! I am a foreigner and I know the constitution better than you do, because I live in this country and I am curious to know more about it. Ignorance is not always a blessing and certainely not god's will!!!>

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  12. weird_henry

    McCain and McPalin keep McScrewing up!! I'm McLovin' it!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  13. Dave

    What is clear is that Palin operates on a third grade level. "My Pet Goat" anyone? Please, someone send her to recess so the smart people can get on with the business of reorienting the country in a positive direction.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  14. Ryan

    I love how Palin gets a nice big article when she says this, but when Biden says the same thing it gets swept under the rug. Both of our VP candidates are arrogant, ignorant fools. Our presidential candidates are not much better.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Jeremy

    lol this is great... my favorite lines:

    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."

    Ok....so why do we want someone who clearly doesn't understand what her duties will be IF she were to become VP and feels she has to explain her duties in 3rd grade terms? We want someone who knows exactly what they should do as VP and also be very careful not to overstep their boundries when holding that position (unlike Dick Cheney has done....)

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  16. Al from Atlanta

    You don't need a degree in Constitutional Law from Harvard to know that one ... man ... these people are our leaders? I know if I go to an interview and don't even know what job I am applying for, I wouldn't be expecting a call the next day!

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  17. arc, Lugano CH

    McCain already had the vote of the GOP base. They wouldn’t have been happy to cast their votes for him, for the most part, but they would have. He didn’t have to select windbag Palin to solidify the base. They already think Obama is a Muslim, terrorist, born overseas, eats hotdogs with Ayers, etc….and black (ooops!).

    The GOP and McCain campaign treat Palin like a secretary, a farcical big windbag of hot air in a pretty package. While McCain is truly mentally and physically in decline, the only person who world leaders would respect even less than McCain is windbag Palin.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  18. M J

    I have seen numerous women in leadership roles, and Palin, by no means could fit in the shoes of either one of them. If woman are looking to this woman to be inspired, I just can't understand why. McCain has made a bad judgement call to choose her. Listening to her talk it is obvious Alaska made a bad decision as well. I have tried to give Palin benefit of the doubt and she truely is clueless. I will admit she is pretty, but she lacks common sense. I was hoping to see better.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  19. WOW

    There is no way to spin this postively although the McCain – Palin campaign will try to plaster over this and hide it with some designer clothes.

    We all know that 3 months ago, Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin PUBLICALLY ASKED, what it was that the Vice President did. We all know that she DOESN"T KNOW the answer.

    The fact that she went into detail about setting the legislative agenda in the Senate proves that she STILL doesn't know. The Vice President is not part of the Legislative Branch of the US Government.

    The truth is that she believes and expects that its a position where the President has the lattitude to allow her to do ANYTHING he CHOOSES. She is so being used by McCain ... it's not funny.

    In explaining it to Palin, McCain probably did tell her she'd be in charge of the Senate and she believed him.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  20. Julia

    I find it difficult to believe that Sarah Palin's response was to a third grader. She made the same comment during the Vice Presidential debate, about presiding over the senate and being in charge of it.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  21. Jorge -- SF_CA

    This is a job interview, and she gets the fundamental question wrong!

    "Governor Palin, I'm sorry, we've decided to go with a better candidate for the VP position: Senator Biden!"

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  22. Stephee

    Isn't this enough proof that Sarah isn't ready to be VP?

    Obama/Biden '08

    Vote people!

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  23. KH

    Oh CNN (and your followers)...what a joke. Biden's gaffe was twice as bad; where was your mention of that?

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. vjh_CT

    Are you smarter than a 3rd garder ? Very scary when a VP candidate doesn't know the Constitution !

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

    Everytime this woman opens her mouth, stupid falls out.

    October 22, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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