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. Joan

    Breaking News:

    Palin Set To Elect Record Numbers of Democrats Nationwide

    October 22, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  2. Republicans In denial

    Our jalopy is out of gas and the wheels are falling off but we will fight the good fight with all our might. Sputter, sputter!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  3. Joe "The 6 Term senator" Biden

    Oops, he did it again. Joe Biden’s latest comments display yet another hiccup. This time Biden admits his running mate is untested, acknowledges that the world knows it and that many try to exploit his inexperience: “We’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy,” Biden said this week.

    As if that weren’t enough, Biden went on to say that it would not be readily apparent that Obama’s response to an international crisis would be the correct one and urged supporters to stand by him even in doubt.

    Thanks for that vote of confidence, Joe. You sure know how to give new meaning to the title “number two” with your talking points. (Note: before he was tapped as Obama’s sidekick, Biden argued Obama wasn’t experienced enough to be president).

    Truth be told, this is quite possibly the most honest thing Biden has said to date (besides his notion that Hillary would make a better vice president than he would). Obama is arguably the most inexperienced candidate seeking the White House in the last century. But most importantly, his policy positions are flat out fallible. From fiscal issues to foreign affairs, he’s eerily vapid and devoid of the mettle it takes to do the job. I’m glad to see Senator Biden agrees, just wish he would have conceded this point sooner.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  4. I thought brunettes were the Smart Ones

    They [McCain & Paliln] repeatedly ask the American people to excuse the very words that come out of their mouths.

    I'd love to see the list of McCain screw ups since he was named the Republican nominee for President starting with Lieberman having to explain Sunni and Shia to him while they were in Isreal.

    In this case, nobody put anything is Sarah's mouth .... SHE made these comments after having had months to research and be coached in how to answer the question.

    The VP does not run the Senate. The VP does not set the legislative agenda.

    There is NO WAY we can elect this woman anything.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  5. Thomas A.

    I saw the clip. She was speaking to 3rd graders on their level, and did a superb job of explaining to them the VP role. Does anyone for a moment think that the VP sits around the Senate and only presides and isn't working also on administration issues with the Congress? Go find a real issue to whine about.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. Faye


    How is it liberal bias to point out that Sarah Palin, who is running for Vice-President, has NO CLUE what the VP actually does?! CNN didn't tell Palin to misrepresent the powers of the VP. Caribou Barbie did that all on her own. LOL

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  7. Penny Lane

    "tie-braking" vote?

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  8. HiFi

    Sarah Palin...not smarter than a third grader.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  9. republican for Obama

    everytime this lady opens her mouth, she either lies or says the wrong things. She is outright STUPIDDDDDDDDDDDDDD. Please vote Obama and let him be the next President of this great country

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  10. Dave

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

    That sounds about right – considering the fact that Palin's level of intellect hovers right around that of a third-grader. I seriously wonder if this woman could get any dumber without having to be reminded to breathe.

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

    Well, by golly, u betcha, she doesn't know the role. Golly gee, why not explain it correctly to da tird grader, now she's a goin aways a thinkin, my gosh, she's goin to be in charge of da Senate. Gee willikers, hope she doesn't home school her youngins, back dere in Alaskie.

    Jon Stewart said it all for me with 2 words to Palin. My sentiments exactly Mr. Stewart.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. Mike D

    UNFIT to be VP, UNFIT to be PRESIDENT.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. Tony

    Come on, dontcha know real Americans are ignorant, theocratic, racist, xenophobic dittoheads with no interest in facts or reality? Who cares if she doesn't know what a Vice President does. Only evil libruls "know things."

    Like, I mean, the earth is flat, so you just need a big enough set of binoculars to see Russia from anywhere!

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. Nick Kennedy

    How can you take Sarah Palin seriously? She's just an icon - a figure, trying to entice swing voters by being "different" and "whimsical."

    This is pathetic.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  15. Melly

    the dummy doll talks again 🙂

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

    Biden clearly stated the VP duties were spelled out in the constitution and told Palin where to look. She did not do this and the reason she talked like a 3rd grader is she fould someone of her own level

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  17. Christy

    Gee another Republican who doesn't feel the need to read and understand the Constitution before running for office. Big surprise here.

    Hey Sarah: Maybe you should ask Obama, who was professor of Constitutional Law, what the VP does? Then he can fill you in right before he sends you and your $150,000 worth of taxpayer funded clothing back to AK where your approval ratings have sunk into the toilet. Have fun explaining your actions to your pissed off AK constituents!

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  18. yvonne

    This just proves what the GOP was up to from the beginning. They wanted to get Hillary supporters by adding a woman to the ticket, but to their surprise that picked the wrong one.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  19. Betsy in Oregon

    I have already voted – Oregon has mail in ballots- and voted Obama !

    Who, in their right mind would vote for this clueless woman and McPain?
    Send her back to Wasilla to breed more babies and sell lipstick!

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. Michelle, PA

    What on Earth is Palin doing?

    First she wants power that is not anywhere in teh Constitution or the historical scope of the Vice Presidency. Either she can't google "vice president duties" or she doesn't care what would happen to the division of powers.

    Then she takes the name of God in vain and uses His name to attempt to further her own secular political agenda. I personally think if God were a registered voter, He would be strictly Independent.

    She's out putting McCarthy to shame by saying some of us are Un-American for living in the wrong place or supporting the wrong candidate. As though Democrats from the big city don't fight, bleed and die for this country too. And it's no mistake, as it not only happened more than once but she's being backed up in her old-fashioned red-baiting by folks like Bachmann, Martinez, and a new one every day. Now McCain says Western PA is more patriotic than anywhere else. Meaning people who live anywhere other than Western PA are Un-American to varying degrees? Outrageous!

    Former Republican, now Independent, voting straight Dem for the first time ever. Tell the Republicans to clean house and take out the trash!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. Rhonda in KY

    I introduce you to the female version of VP Cheney.

    Keep talking, Sarah. The more you do, the lower your numbers go and the higher the negatives go.

    Why does everyone continue to say the media is completely liberal and bias? Ever thought that just this once, they are all right just like many of us?

    Obama/Biden voter who has never voted Democratic for President before

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

    More like she was spouting another talking point that was given to her at her level..which seems to be less than that of a 3rd grader.

    Is ti possible that she is DUMBER than Dubya????????

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. Nancy

    Is it in a way a "third grader could understand" or Palin's own third grade understanding of the Constitution?

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. Elizabeth D

    Seriously.. any one saying that bidens gaffe was worse.. are you kidding me.. He was speaking intellectually on experience of the past 25 years of foriegn affairs. With any president!!! Bush was tested with 911.. please.. and that fact that McCain is so irratic .. and makes snap decisions... I DO NOT want him in charge when a crisis hits...look at how he handled the financial crisis..terribly....

    Obama is the one with calm resolve..good judgement.. if anyone .. I would want Obama to be in the White hose if there is an international crisis!!!! Please..keep grasping at anything....McCain... it is sad.

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  25. kendal

    I know she's the gift that keeps on giving but enough already with this lettuce head. Back to Alaska please.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49