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)

    The truth is that Palin didn't answer in a way a third grader could understand. She answered in a way anyone with a third grade IQ would answer! The truth is the question was asked what a VP does, and the Ms. Palin looked at the child, winked, and explained her energy policy!

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. Alison

    If people are questioning her ability to be President or Vice President, why does she keep over estimating her role? It would seem to me if I were running her campaign, that I would tell her to downplay her power in a McCain administration. So, not only do we have the stupidity of her not realizing that the VP position is not what Cheney has tried to make it, but we have the stupidity of someone trying to fight their image as unprepared by making the job they seek seem even bigger and more important. Before her next interview, Palin should read the Constitution and learn to appear humble.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. Observer

    Unbelievable. Some people actually support this woman.
    I spewed my tea across the room when I heard her utter these comments on TV last night. Gee, I've been down on myself a bit lately, but she really makes me feel like I'm smart. Now I feel better. Thanks, Mrs. Palin!

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. OKC

    Why is she attempting to explain what the VP does to a 3rd grader? How many 3rd graders are watching election coverage? She does not know what the role of VP is b/c she has no policital knowledge. She needs to hitch a dog sled ride back to Alaska and shoot at animals from a hellicopter.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. Darryl

    You everytime I see her I think of Dumb and Dumber. She give a new meaning to being Govenor of Alaska.. She did not did not have to take a test for the office.. Okay so she sleep with her husband business partner. So, she get around.

    America, we do not need another SEX SCANDAL in the White House..

    Stop her now!!!!!!

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

    I am more stupid for having read all these posts

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

    Question of the day:

    Is Sarah Palin really smarter than a 3rd grader???

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

    Stupid dumb, but not as bad as the folks supporting her.

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  9. Edward

    But she's SO well dressed. And such a lovely hairstyle. We need to get her into the job of Senate Executive so she can keep those looks up on taxpayer dollars!

    October 22, 2008 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. Doug, Florida

    What is wrong with you people

    "The fundamentals of the economy are strong"
    Stop wining about job, and heath care, etc

    Go start a business and pull yourself up by your boot strap and vote for lower taxes, so when you start making $250,000 like me. You can have wine with dinner by the pool.

    Vote for Dumb- McCain and Dumber – Palin

    As for me and my house We are with "that one"

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. S.M

    Once again Sarah Palin doesn't know the role of the VP, but yet she has the audicity to attack Obama on his experience. Spare me! Palin has also proven to the american people and those around the world that she is clueless to not only foreign policy, but how one should conduct oneself when it comes to a position of authority. When you use taxpayers money to pay foot the bill for your children's traveling expense and they were not invited to most of these events, you are taking advantage of those who put in you in office.

    When Palin commented on Joe Biden's statement that Obama will be tested, I felt that she should be the last person to throw stones. Everyone is tested; whether your a Minister, Teacher, Doctor, Plumber, Head Chef or President or VP of a company, you will be tested by those who either work for you or outside of your circle. At least Obama and Biden can put a sentence together that makes sense and not speak like "The Village Idiot".

    If the Republicans are voting for McCain/Palin based on her looks, than in that case Halle Berry and Brad Pitt need to throw their hat into the arena as VP.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  12. PTB

    "I AM the Senate" – Senator Palpatine aka the Emporer

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. Jennifer

    Oh, and to all you Obama/Biden supporters who think Joe is going to sit around and wait to break a tie vote, you have seriously lost touch with reality. He will do more as you prbably hope he will do since Obama has so very little experience. Whose your Cheney now?

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  14. Anita

    The McCain Campaign is trying to give an explanation as to what Palin meant. Unfortunately, this is the fourth time Palin was asked this question and this is the fourth time Palin was incorrect. This is not funny anymore, this is very very sad. You have a vp candidate who doesn't even know there own job description. How is this possible 13 days before the election. If anybody is still voting for McCain/Palin ticket, I would have to ask, why!!!!!! I am an indpendent and there is no way I can vote for the McCain/Palin ticket. What was John McCain thinking!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  15. Dj

    Who is her God? I don't think it is the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.... Can't be... not based on her views and expressions.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  16. Diane

    This is the second time I have heard Palin misstate the role of the Vice-President. The first time was NOT in answer to a 3rd grader's question, but a reporter's. So that excuse falls short. It is obvious she has not read or does not understand our Constitution. Nor does she understand the very important reasons for the three separate branches of our government.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  17. BL

    Oh gosh, there she goes again, overstepping her bounds. Oh well. If she winks, it will be okay.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. Shay

    Palin is an arrowhead dumb barbie without 1st Dude there to answer the question. Whether you are talking to a Kindergardener, 3rd, 4th or 5th grader you should know your role as VP and not have to give an excuses that it is a 3rd grader. What the hell do she teach her kids? At least we know it is not sex education. Sarah please close your mouth. This is pathetic and she should be impeached and now not wait for the election.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Susan in SC

    Perhaps Sarah Palin is dreaming to do one of the following – in that fantasy land where she would EVER be VP:

    1. Go all Mavericky and pen a new U.S. Constitution;
    2. Go all Mavericky and try to take over the Senate;
    3. Go all Mavericky and try to swipe "McCant's" Executive Power; or
    4. Go all Mavericky and host a huge make-up, hair, and clothes party for all of Senate while trying to pen a new Constitution, while taking over the Senate (the legislative branch of the government), and swiping the power of the Executive branch from the President!!!!

    Oh go for broke Sarah – Pick # 4!

    Dang! She just realized she did not figure out a way to steal power from the Judicial branch as well!!!! That darn Supreme Court messing up her plans for world domination!

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  20. BearKans

    So if you end a tie, is that the same as tie braking?
    Wouldn't you really rather be a tie breaker?

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  21. chad in avery ca.

    so she was just giving 3rd graders the wrong answer?

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  22. Gregg

    Sara, Wisconsin needs to read the constitution.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. Kevin, Austin TX

    My dad taught me long ago:

    Once is a mistake, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern.

    Folks, what we have here is a pattern of deceit or intentional power grabbing by a very smart poltician in some respects and in others, somebody who is completely clueless.

    Otherwise, she is by far the most dangerous candidate of the four to become POTUS.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  24. Youtopia

    Everytime she opens her mouth about ANYTHING that has to do with the function of any part of the government she stumbles. Is she smarter than a 5th grader? It is very scary to think that 38% of the USA still see her as a great pick! I wanted McCain because of his foreign experience and this STUPID woman has sent me running to the Obama/Biden ticket. What Republican who Loves this country would still want her? Stop the Madness!
    Obama/Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  25. James

    She forgot to mention how the president of the Senate gets to have her kids there on official duty so the taxpayer can pay for their flights.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
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