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. SS

    Why does anyone think the republican administration should be any different with comments like this? Seriously, this blows my mind. They are questioning, not only regular citizens patriotism, but also US senators and congress men and women by saying who is pro-America. They have used "Fear" again to try to sway voters with smears and lies. Then, to top it off, we have Palin pulling a Dick Cheney and abusing her power when she doesn't even have it yet. We have seen this abuse over and over again.
    This is not change. This is not being a Maverick. This is more of the same thing we have been force fed for eight long years. What's even more scary then abuse of power, is she may not even know what her job ( the second most important job in America) will be.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. An Early Voter

    This woman underestimates the 3rd graders – they are smarter than she thinks.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. Jennifer

    I think before we say that the role is ceremonial, people should read Thomas Jefferson's thoughts on the subject. No where in the consitution does it say that being president of the Senate is "ceremonial". It says only that that person does not cast a vote unless there is a tie. Let's stop putting words into the constitution.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. Anna PA

    When Palin speaks of the role of VP I can feel her powerlust. It's makes for feelings of discomfort to think of another Chenely like character in the Vice President position. Along with her "tapped by God" attitude she has about herself.

    If she thinks her thought and ideas are sent by God then all ideas are good ideas and not alot of thought needs to go into if they should be put into place. Our country can not take anymore of this kind of rule. It has proven to be a very distructive way to make discisions.

    Another important point to consider is that Palin does even know what the job really is, STILL. It seems what the job has been for the life of our country is not important to Palin. What is important to her is what SHE wants the job to be.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. The Stallion & The Champ vs. The Old Mule and Winky Half-baked Alaska

    This idiot has had four attempts to explain what a VP does. We are less than two weeks away from the possibility of her holding the second highest position in this country. Anyone who would remotely consider casting a vote for her and John McCain is as clueless as she and he combined. Just to clarify, that would be one brain cell away from being an amoeba.

    October 22, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  6. A-Man

    FELOW REPUBLICANS help me send our party in a new direction. Palin and the behind the scenes republicans who ran the Bush administration and now are running McCain's have disgraced our party. We need to get out and VOTE DEMOCRATIC in grooves in order to send a clear message. This will be the first time I did not vote Republican, but I will this election. Do the same and lets rebuild our proud party for the future. I cannot take 4 more years of Bush and McCain and Palin lean worse then Bush and Chenny. Time we take back out party.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. Countdown with Keith Olbermann & the Racheal Maddow Show

    Hey governor Moose, can you tell us why you spent $150,000 of your own campaign supporters money on your wardrobe for yourself, your husband, & your baby???

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  8. Katherine

    Can we all say duh......

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Brad

    The third grader must have been a plant. Maybe the media put him up to it since she won't have an honest to goodness press conference.

    Those pesky third graders . . . Someone better tell Brandon to be careful, he might be construed as unpatriotic and he could be labled as someone who hates America!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  10. Helene

    Alas ! If this was the ONLY gaffe or ignorant remark of that dimwit ! But she is also a dangerous clown.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. That One

    Bob in Spokane-so reporting an actual event that acutally happened is
    biased? Palin said it? Seems pretty straight forward to me. Or is it just when you don't agree with it that it is biased? Maybe you should try Faux News, they should be right up your alley

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  12. Mike D

    UNFIT to be VP, UNFIT to be PRESIDENT.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  13. Rachel (CNN please post!)

    Count on the Republicans to try to downplay her stupidity!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  14. Sadie Calif

    Oh silly CNN...the constitution doesn't apply to Sarah Palin. Heck...if that little old piece of paper gets in her way - she'll just have to "maverick it" and just get that sucker re-done. Who cares what some old guys in wigs wrote some...shucks...20 hundred years ago. We'll just have reform...I mean reformat that piece of government. You betcha! **shrug...wink....cute smile 🙂

    Ugh!!! Palin is starting make Cheney look good....it least he KNEW when he was breaking laws...and did it anyhow. She doesn't even know what her powers would be. Scary!!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  15. claudia dick

    i am wondering how did this person become govoner,shedont know anything .oh my god what is the wourld coming to ,its like picking a street walker of the street and says oh yeah you are a maverick be my vp.i dont know but i think mcCAIN IS senile.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. Cat

    Just another nail in her "I am stupid, really stupid" coffin. This woman is an idiot and every time she opens her mouth she shots herself in the foot. Better her foot than the poor animals she gets a thrill from killing. Send her home!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. Gary

    Of course, this does not trump Biden's latest gaff about his candidates inability to lead in the event of a "test" from a foreign power.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. JimmyHinson

    I was a Republican for 32 years and this has all changed my mind and 10 of the people I live with. No more affiliation with that party, no leadership by one angry older gentleman and a woman who sounds like a school child.

    Obama Biden 2008

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. Voting For Obama - not against McPalin

    To Bob in Spokane:

    If you believe that CNN "is the most untrusted source of news in the world," than why are reading this article, and more to the point, bothering to comment on it?

    I have to agree with Al – everytime this woman opens her mouth, she discredits herself, her running mate, her party, the country – I could go on, but aren't we all tired of it already?

    November 4th can't come soon enough!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. Laura

    Would this have been a story if Biden said it?

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Glenn

    When I was in the third grade they actually taught us about the Constitution and explained what all the different branches do. I don't know what they are teaching in Alaska, but if she was trying to answer a third grader maybe she should have actually explained what the VP does not what SHE wants the VP to do.

    She is a good example of why I left the Republican party after being on my whole life. The other good example is McCain. Please actually check out each candidate by looking at what they say and not what other people tell you they are saying.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  22. Whyvoterep?

    PALIN: Public Enemy Number One, Her own worst enemy, and John McCains HUGE achilles heel. I wouldnt vote her as a school teacher, mayor, governor, or VP. Do we really want a beauty queen, butt of every joke running the country.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  23. John in UPST NY


    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  24. Chandu

    Fellow Obama supporters. Please don't complain. Just remember we need some comedy to help us through these difficult times and they don't come any better than her!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  25. Danny B

    That third grader had her totally backed into a corner! What was she supposed to say? Did you hear the types of questions that same group of third graders asked Obama? "What is your favorite color?" Come on! This 'gotcha' media has got to stop!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
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