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. sick of the same old

    This lady appears to be scary dumb. She continually has to be bailed out for misquotes or misunderstandings. The Republican party is preaching to Joe the Plumber (please enough already). When the heck did they EVER care about blue collar people. The fact that Palin plays this winking down home type is crazy. She is targeting an audience that won't get any help whatsoever from another Republican cluster you know for the next 4 years.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. sglman4Obama


    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  3. Tim

    McCain should really consider picking up a "I'm with stupid" t-shirt before their next appearance

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  4. SoCal

    Why are her kids on the campaign trail with her, rather than attending school?

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. cool onlooker

    Who can fix this woman, for God's sake?

    She is even more naive than some six-graders.

    Save us!

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. C.K.

    Third graders understand the concept of a tie. Third graders understand the concept of someone who oversees a larger group.

    Money can buy you all the Donna Karan you want but it can't buy you instant brains, or apparently the ability to read the document on which our government was founded.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  7. Sara, Wisconsin

    No matter your political coloration, the United States of America is governed – first and formenost – by the United States Constitution!!!!
    Palin's ignorant utterances regarding the position of Vice President of the United States of America are NOT based on ANY statements in the Constitution.
    It is no laughing matter whan a nominee for the second highest office in our land does NOT know and respect the Constitution.
    In fact, disregarding the United States Constitution can actually be considered UN-AMERICAN and UNPATRIOTIC. How about THAT?
    You betcha'.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. Michigan Voter

    Regarding her other comments, if McCain is elected, I'm betting Palin will work on having Christianity declared the official US religion.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Sherri

    She probably has eyes on "being in charge of the Senate." This power abusing woman is probably smarter than she appears to be, and occasionally gives us insight into her thought process. Its just one more reason to vote for Obama.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. Dave in Houston

    If she follows Cheney's innovations in the post, she should have said that the Vice President is the Dictator of the United States!

    I know one person who is praying for Palin to win: Dan Quayle. She'll take the title of Dumbest VP off his shoulders. Maybe he couldn't spell "potato" but she does not even know her job description!

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

    A third grader would understand if Sarah would have said "I will be the person to break a tie if is is 4 to 4 then I would vote to make it total 5 to 4", what is hard with this explanation.

    You guys can not continue to make excuses for Sarah, lets face it Sarah has no ideal and out of her league.

    Don't dare use that a third grader can not understand .

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. Jatovi, NC

    "She was explaining in terms a third-grader could understand that the vice-president is also president of the U.S. Senate."

    WOW! So in other words she teaching the third grader wrong. I guess she would've been one of the teachers that McCain would tell, "you need a new job."

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  13. Max

    Honestly, how many of you would have understood what it means to be a "neutral presiding officer of the Senate" in third grade?
    It's not that complicated when you have a good grasp on what each word in that phrase means, but for a third grader I think Palin's explanation was satisfactory.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. craig

    Palin must have an advanced degree from the Dick Cheney school of how best to control a Democracy. She parrots Cheneyisums very well.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  15. Joe

    My senior government students laughed and laughed when they heard her explanation of what the VP does. They have a much better grasp on the role of the VP then the person who is actually running for VP does. How pathetic.

    Proud Virginian, Proud Democrat

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  16. bob in L.A.

    Oh, there will be a correction like with everything else she says.
    When are we goingto realize she speaks without knowledge and has to be taught later?
    Is this who we want a heartbeat away?

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. David in Minneapolis

    So...she responded to a 3rd Graders question...giving a highly informed 3rd Graders response. They (probably) don't know history or the workings of the government any better than Sarah Palin.

    God save us all.

    Vote OBAMA!

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Sarah Palin is not clueless. She just has no intention of being VP! Anyone who thinks she is campaigning for McCain is not paying attention.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. karen Raleigh

    If Alaska was ignorant enough to have this woman as governor so be it. However to have her as a vice presidential nominee for this country is scary.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. Chipster

    Overstatement? Fabrications, exaggerations, contradictions, outright lies . . . McCain and Palin will try anything. They don't even seem to notice that they contradict each other and sometimes even themselves!

    I've never witnessed a more chaotic and confused campaign in my life. Sen. Obama isn't perfect, no one is, but he is well-educated with a thorough knowledge of the U.S. Constitution. He's capable and reasonable. He will have a daunting task ahead of him to undo the damage to our economy, International relationships, and mismanaged federal agencies with the economic disaster he will inherit. But at least he recognizes that it needs to be corrected.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  21. MJ - San Antonio, TX

    This woman is a WACKO. Its good to see how many people have changed their minds about her and have chosen to vote Democrat instead of Republican. She is an insult to her own party.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  22. Democrat for McCain

    Any one with 1/2 a brain will not vote for Obama. He is not very smart but has great oratory skills. He is a socialist. He has some very shakey background and friends who are terrorists, racists and anti-american. Palin would make a much better president then Obama and has more experience. Do you know what a community organizer is? ACORN LOL LOL LOL - now that makes Obama ready HA HA HA HA - what a joke the Democratic Party has become.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  23. Gizmo65

    In response to Terry: At least Biden didn't just up and state an untrue job duty. Working with congress is not the same as I will be in charge of the senate.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  24. Howard in TX

    I was really superised that this comments just showed up in the media. She made the same comments during the VP debate with Biden. and Biden pointed out that the notion of VP in charge of senator was non sense.

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. Tony

    Someone needs to remind Biden what the role of vice president is since he thinks he's going to be able to babysit inexperienced Obama when the expected international crisis hits in the first six months of his dreaded presidency.

    Luckily I don't think his presidency is all that likely. Between voter registration fraud with the Democrats and pollsters changing their methods to favor Democrats with no evidence, I think McCain is going to win all of the swings states and if he works at it, flip Pennsylvania.

    But keep patting yourselves on the back because you voted earlier. When I vote on Nov 4, it's going to count just as much as your ignorant vote.

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