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. Mick

    Promptly open mouth and insert foot. Keep talking Sarah. All the way to Obama's inauguration.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  2. The Cosmos & McCain Rocks!!


    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Mike, Toronto

    Since she seems to be an expert on Russia, there could be a political future for her there, where legality is never an issue for the people in power.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  4. Tremend18

    Sarah Palin is Dumber Than A 3rd Grader...her hunger for power is frightening.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  5. Dennis

    I guess the 3rd grader was giving her a "gotcha" question.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. Ian

    Palin later told one of the third graders that they were not invited to her birthday party and that she was taking her ball and going home.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. Redneck from the Midwest

    Really? Is anyone surprised?

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  8. Danny from Phoenix

    Wow.. a historian out of his mind? READ THE CONSTITUTION. The Vice President of the United States, constitutionaly, only succeeds the President, and votes when a tie occurs in the Senate. "Cerimonial duties" are NOT official duties the Vice President has, they are mere traditions. If a VP played golf, do we say that is a responsibility under the role now? Please.

    Palin is incredible stupid for the statement she gave. I cannot pathom the fact that nearly half this country would actually vote for her and McCain. Incredibly pathetic ticket.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  9. nice

    Yes, she was responding to a third grader. Meaning she lied to a third grader.

    That's like a father who is a janitor telling his child that he is president of the building.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  10. SPT NYC

    To give credit where credit's due, a third-grade level answer is actually a substantial improvement as far as Governor Palin's rhetorical skills go. Hurray!

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. Oakbrook, IL

    Paling doesnt know what a VP does. She gave the wrong answer.

    Pro-Life Supporters – just know that no one is Pro-Abortion. You are voting Pro-Life to save the babies, but what about saving the mother's life because she would die if she carries the baby to full term?

    So it's ok for you to say let's save the babies, and let the mothers with high risk die. How is this Pro-Life.

    I voted for Pro-Choice. It makes sense.

    October 22, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. tulsa

    Yep, she's ready alright..... you betcha.
    Obama 08

    (psst... he picked someone with a brain for his VP!)

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  13. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Sarah ... keep talking because the hole you're digging for yourself is getting deeper and deeper. With any kind of luck, you'll dig the hole so deep that after November 4 ... we'll never see or hear from you again!

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  14. AA

    Keep talking Sarah, please, I can"t get enough!!

    In such a stressful time it is great to have a 24hr news cycle that I can turn to for some laughs.

    I could teach my DOG to memorize and point to the correct answer in a week.

    My stomach hurts from laughing so hard.


    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  15. GF, Los Angeles

    That wasn't even an appropriate 3rd grade answer because it was wrong! It may have made sense to Palin with her 3rd grade mind. McCain lost my vote when he nominated her.

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. Hugh

    If Palin was a statue, I would love to be a pigeon.

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. JM

    Oh please she's right. Where's all the stories about Joe Biden's statements? Where is the outrage over his comments about the impending international crisis should Obama get elected and American's not liking Obama's response?

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. Tom Swift, Shopton


    So Sarah thinks she will run the Senate.

    She's either very stupid, or, this is a continuation of the Bush/Cheney attempt to give the VP more power.

    In either case... be afraid... be very afraid.


    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. Brendose, Oceanside CA

    Yep. Sarah was responding to a third grader........Finally, someone who is at her level!

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  20. Shawn - GA

    I see no problem with this, the Dem controlled Senate is just worried that she will actully stay involved and keep an eye on them.

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  21. ez

    Go early voters!

    Registered Republican "voted" Obama/Biden 08.

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. The Cosmos & McCain Rocks!!

    »SARAH"So Lovely!So Clever!So Charismatic!"PALIN verus JOE "So BORING!" BIN!=Guess who will be our next Vice-President?!??!»WAKE UP USA!!WAKE UP VOTERS!!

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  23. maxine

    This is not the first time she is saying this. Explaining to a 3rd Grade He would fail his civics test, This is in the same boat as


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

    Wait a second, that is definitely part of the job of the vice president. They are the President of the senate. CNN, you guys need to read the constitution. This is a shame and your falsehood unfortunately continues to convice ignorant people of what you're saying.

    October 22, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  25. IndependentfromTexasforObama

    Palin is acting like a Christian Mullah. what's going on here? Are we going back to 18th century or what? All the progress made in this world is being stripped slowly and steadily. DOes Palin even know the three branches of the govt. Can she spell Maverick?

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