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

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


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. Cindy Nelson

    How can anyone in their right mind support this woman? This should resonate with all people in this country. Is she going to try and Ammend our Constituion to serve her own power hungry needs?
    ~ I cant take it~ She is more dangerous than Cheney because she's so stupid.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  2. John from White Plains, NY

    She is clueless...the next thing she'll say is that Dan Quayle was the best VP this country has ever had....

    Give her another eight more years as the governor and she'll be more qualified, but not now....

    Obama/Biden: '08/'12

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. Big Ed

    That is frightening. She is running for an office she knows next to nothing about. The more she opens her mouth, the more she shows that she is not quilified for Vice-President or President. I really question her qualifications for Governor. Talk about a head case!

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Steve in CT

    It sounds to me from reading the liberals comments that even though she spoke in a way a third grader would understand it was still over the heads of some. And they're voting for socialism. Scary.

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

    My dad once said, "there are two types of stupid. Those who know they don't know and are smart enough to keep their mouths shut and those who aren't even smart enough to know they don't know and ramble on like they do know." It is utterly laughable that this person is a candidate for vice-president of the US. I am an independent who voted for GW (albeit regrettably) in 2000 and I am going to proudly vote for the choice that represents keen intellect, judgment, and a nuanced, rather than simplistic, understanding of the complexities of our country and our world.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Mccain/Palin are liars!

    I can't believe there are people in America that will vote for 2 idiots to be in charge of the country, our education system must be failing miserably if 40% of the country is for these idiots.

    October 22, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Al Qaeda is for Obama

    Online chatter from Islamic Web sites that has been intercepted and translated shows: Al Qaeda is avidly following the US presidential race with an eye to its next attack and they're pulling for Obama.

    With an unrelenting desire by Al Qaeda to strike the US, as it did in 2001. One of its communiqués says the following about the coming month: “At that time, Obama is elected, the collapse will happen quickly and … then after the blow by Al Qaeda, God Willing, the United States will begin to disintegrate.”

    Al Qaeda is for Obama

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

    I will be so happy in 13 days when this ignorant woman goes back to her little rock in Alaska and crawls under it for good.

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

    Five words: Not ready for prime time.

    Maybe she should have paid a little more attention in high school civics.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. William

    It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that Sarah Palin doesn't know the Constitutional role of the VP in the U.S. Senate. She doesn't appear to know much of anything except how to fleece the taxpayers of Alaska (aka "Almost Russia, Not Quite Canada").

    But it makes no difference anymore. All metrics are pointing to an Obama win. John McCain is too far behind and no candidate has ever come from so far behind to win the election in the history of the nation. The only question left is how big the Obama landslide is going to be. The more McCain allows Palin to run her mouth, the bigger Obama's victory will be.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. Moderate male

    "Fed up!", if that's the standard you use, then Joe Biden is less qualified than Sarah Palin. She's at least close to the right answer. But wait a minute, since it's the Messiah's running mate, then he can't be criticized and it was just "a misunderstanding" or "misinterpreted".

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. Voter

    A month b4 selection she said she didn't know what the VP did... and she STILL doesn't!

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. FreeNLovIt

    She needs to do what Hillary did back in 1992, disappear behind the scene and let Bill Clinton do his work.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. Lucy

    Palin does not understand why people keep smacking her down. It is because every time she opens her mouth she sticks her foot in it and the job of the Vice President is to take over for the President if he should die in office. McCain is the oldest candidate to run for President and he has a 25% chance of dying in office. Palin as VP is a scary thought.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. Mark

    Well I sure hope somebody explained it to her in third grade terminolgy. Were she could understand it

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. proud army and navy mom

    Palin asked in July 2008, "What exactly does the VP do? The repugs have obviously not spoonfed her the answer yet.

    We all know that she does not get to watch the news, much less read for fear that she will get depressed. What an idiot!

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  17. Rob

    a 3rd grader asked....so is the proposed GOP policy going to be let's teach kids what is easy rather than what is true?

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. Jim


    The only role for the VP, or at least how the Founder Fathers had envisioned it, was to break a tie in the Senate. THAT'S IT! Cheny was the one that overstepped his bounds and authority and apparently Palin thinks that's in the job description. I got no problem with the VP being a big advisor to the president or being very involved in foriegn affairs, but pulling the strings of the presidency is a bit too much.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  19. Voice of Reason

    So, she can't even get a third-grade level answer right? What if any of us Average Joes she is so fond of quoting were to completely blow our understanding of the job we were shooting for in an interview? We would be shown the door, unless we had spokespeople to explain away our ignorance, and a fan base that would angrily denounce the unfairness of interviewer in attacking us with questions and expectations.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  20. Alexandra - Grand Forks, ND

    Yesterday Palin says that a second stimulus package is a bad liberal idea. Today McCain says he would support a second stimulus package. Do these two even talk to each other?

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  21. Carl Justus

    This just shows how little Governor Palin knows about the job she is running for. It also shows how little McCain knows about Governor Palin and his the lack of good judgment in picking her.
    You would think if a person is running for president would pick someone who knows the duties he or she would perform. McCain says she was fully vetted, but if what they did to her is fully vetting her then he and his staff is incompetent and should definitely should not be voted to lead this country.

    If McCain wanted a woman to help him with the election, he had the pick of several GREAT women, Olympia Snow, Susan Collins, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Liz Dole, all very capable women and understand the role of the vice presisent and all would make good presidents.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  22. values

    Once again what else is new with Palin she is incompetant. And this is what half of america wants to support. Well the Joe six pack aren't very smart so this is what they are asking for.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  23. Beaglemum

    Hey, stupid is as stupid does.

    October 22, 2008 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. Zman_miami

    Simplifying an answer for a third grader doesn't mean that you can twist and mangle the truth... that woman has no friggin' clue!

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

    The frightening thing is that this is not the first time nor the second time that she has been corrected on this. The first time was during the NATIONAL VP debate, the second was during a stump speech. Both times, the media pointed out (very kindly, I might add) that she didn't understand Article 1 of the US Constitution. To hear her spew this again, well, that's just a whole lot of ignorance going on.

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