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. james in s.c.

    lawd send this religion freak back to alaska!!!

    OBAMA-BIDEN 08!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  2. ilglalien

    WOW, she is like a hot looking Cheney! Overstating the VP position, but a lot scarier since she is all looks and no brains.

    Indepedents for Obama-Biden

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  3. Irma in North Carolina

    She still doesnt know what the V P's dutys are and you guys want her in the white house. I guess the $150,000 the Mccain camp spent on clothes for her didnt help. Makes you think they were ashamed of her for the way she was dressing.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Dan Garcia

    Is anyone really surprised by the nonsense that comes out of her mouth at this point?

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. John

    She said it sounded like a question that her youngest daughter would ask.

    Her answer sounded like one that my youngest daughter would give.

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. Tim in Wa.

    She was responding at a level *she* understands – can she help it if she's intellectually on par with a 3rd grader?

    October 22, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. ben-cohen

    Lets change the earlier chant from "drill baby drill" to
    "Obama-Biden baby Obama-Biden"...nothing that is spoken by Sarah Palin shouldn't surprise anybody at this point. Oh, and by the way, when Sarah is off being in charge of the Senate, Todd will be sitting in the Vice-Presidents chair downloading all his e-mails from yahoo. And she talks about reforming government!! When Obama-Biden wins and McCain and Palin go their separate ways, Alaska should clean up it government by booting Sarah out of the Govenors office. That would be a great start for Alaska.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. Chi4Obama

    Now I think I understand why it took her attending 5 colleges in 6 years, just to obtain a B.S. in Journalism..........

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. CAD Designer in VA

    LOL...Cue the clean up crew...and tell us what she "meant" to say.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Dr. Mimi De La Cruz


    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  11. Gloria - Minnesota

    It sounds like Sarah Palin was explaining it on a level SHE understands! This woman wants power so badly, it is frightening! Both she and John McCain are power hungry, and I pray on Nov. 5th we wake up to an Obama/Biden ticket election win!

    Go Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  12. Some guy in VA

    This isn't the first time she has screwed up on VP powers. Nor will it be the last. She is a twit. Not a dog with lipstick. Not a person of substance. Not a person of conviction. Not a leader. Not the face of America. And, I hope, not a VP.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  13. Bill from Fairport, NY

    Sarah doesn't have a clue, and that reflects badly on why McCain picked her. Maybe he doesn't have a clue either.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  14. Joe

    Some people stil believe that she is intelligent. Those people are in denial. She is just dumb and not presidental material for this powerful nation. God help us!

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. dwh

    She must have been thinking about the $150,000 worth of clothing and accessories she was going to get, and didn't really here the question properly>

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  16. Bridgette-PA

    Are you telling me that the media is finally going to make Failin’ own up to that statement??? I can't believe it! Let's see how long it last. While the media is at it, why not discuss her abuse of power and the $21,000 she fraudulently spent using Alaskans' tax payer dollars for her kids to travel and later, trying to cover it up! What is wrong with the media! The things they should be discussing, they actually don't. I can't believe that they would rather discuss OBAMA'S dancing skills and Sarah's time on SNL! This had become SICKENING!

    OBAMA/BIDEN -08!

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  17. JB

    bob in spokane:

    Have you actually thought about this, or are you just repeating the now typical right wing argument that Republicans are oppressed by the media? Instead of complaining about the media coverage, why don't you and your right wing allies talk about real issues facing the American public? Why do you continually insist on trying to turn the focus of this campaign to meaningless distractions? You people will do anything to win a campaign. And worse, your actions in these past few weeks have contributed to a growing chasm that separates Americans. I, for one, believe that in the face of this crisis we need to be united, not divided. Your politics of hate and fear will serve only to weaken the United States and will put our future in jeopardy. Rise above petty partisan politics and think about the future.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  18. stephanie

    She doesn't even know what the vice president does! This woman is just incredible.....How did it come to this? America we deserve better!

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  19. jason

    i would think that a third grader would understand something like "i will cast a vote if there is a tie" or "i will talk to people in congress about my beliefs." simplifying things for a third grader is one thing. vastly overstating the office's power while simplifying things is a whole other thing ... especially since she said the same thing in the VP debates. was she simplifying things for third graders then, as well?

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  20. Eric in Colorado

    If John Adams, America's first Vice President, were alive, he would suggest that the role as President of the Senate is much more than just to cast tie breaking votes. The Constitution is not clear on what it means. One should do a little historical research before bashing.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. grahame

    This of course is not surprising. What did you expect, something intelligent from this woman?

    Have you noticed though, that whenever someone comes out of left field to try to make excuses for this woman. They always try to point the conversation away by asking another question instead of answering the first one anyway.

    In other words they answer a question with a question since they don't know the answer anyway.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. kim

    liberal bias my a.....only right wings love this country right????LOOK AT THE COUNTRY NOW????stop emailing all this bulls....

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. MD4Obama

    A joke...


    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. Laura


    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  25. King of NJ

    we've been warned!

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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