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. Walter, Ottawa, KS

    My 8 year old daughter is currently studing government in 3rd grade, and when she saw that she said, "Mommy, daddy, she's wrong." Out of the mouths of babes. Out of the mouths of babes.

    Gov. Palin's handlers, please have her read the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Bring her up to speed. If you don't the old adage "Fighting a person half armed in a battle of wits" will apply now and in 4 years.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. repeatables

    What an opportunity! Ordinary Americans, youths and "the public" are about to make a US president. All that money and President Obama will not owe any allegience to lobbyists.
    When I read how millions of Americans say they have Obama's back and are donating, legging and saying "we will", I feel a rumble of pride in humankind. May be, for once, the world is about to have a leader -uninitiated and untainted by where his "mouth" has been. This is a guy with one house and one car, for God's sake. I cant wait. One of us will soon be strongest man on earth , the leader of the world. And we made it all happen with our $1 $2 donations.( ???. I am so said I am a foreigner and cant donate) . I am tripping. This feelings is good!

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  3. Loletha

    Please spare me; spin it shake it up SHE DID NOT NO Mcshame Mcpaliar have this amazing way of making up things which is exactly what third graders have a tendency to do. For God sake don't start lying to the children.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  4. Unshrub

    The mistake wasn't that Palin answered the question so a 4th grader could understand, but they should have asked the question so a 4th grader could understand.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  5. The Patriot

    Wow! Seriously folks. You have all turned me off this election year. I am a true Independant that leans Democrat, but after the past year...........I will write in someone that I actually think would be able to handle the job. We have done a very poor job choosing on both sides here. None of the 4 are worth voting for or listening to. One side is so angry as to be frightening, so I can't vote for Obama. The other side is so ignorant as to be scary as well, so I can't vote for McCain.................The fanatics have to go.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  6. Terry, Butte, Mt

    They want us to elect someone that doesn't even know what is in the Constitution? We already have that.

    Time to elect 2 constitutional Professors to the White House.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  7. Blue By You

    Does Michael Jackson know that she's wearing his Leather Jacket?

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  8. Observer

    I have to say that this is not really worth reporting, especially with the title that this piece has.
    I am an Obama supporter and a Democrat, but clearly Palin was talking to a 3nd grader and trying to keep it simple.
    Just because the liberal bloggers want to take issue to help their candidate should not automatically make it news and your organization should not provide the item the title that you have.

    October 22, 2008 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  9. Linda/Michigan

    Biden didn't know what the V.P. 's job was either. So what?
    One thing I do like about Biden though, at least he is telling the Obama supporters to get ready for a terrorist attack in the first six months of his presidency. The world knows how inexperienced Obama is and they're ready for him. I have a sneaky suspicion though that Obama is going to let them in through the front door and that's what Biden meant when he said to be patient and that you might not understand what Obama and his administration will be doing.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  10. Indie Voter

    So, this would be like telling children that a stork brings babies: something they can understand, but is completely false... or that man has not had an adverse effect on the environment.
    And what about her using tax payers moneys to tow along her children to events they were not needed nor invited? Her reform in government is about redirecting the wealth to herself! That sure is going to ruffle some feathers.
    Nice wardrobe.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  11. Bmac

    Actually... She is right except she forgot to mention that the VP also gets all Mavricky up in there too!

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  12. Obama supporter

    It is extremely obvious that she is not qualified to hold a position that might someday put her at the head of this country...I thought knowledge of the Constitution was a requirement for Government officials...

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  13. ANON

    Of course she had to explain it in 3rd grade terms, whatever that is, but come on, did she have to lie about it too?

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Cort


    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. Kevin in Denver

    Dem foe McCain wrote: Any one with 1/2 a brain will not vote for Obama. He is not very smart but has great oratory skills. He is a socialist.......SAY WHAT??????????

    Magna Cum Laude you idiot!!!!!!!!
    and you obviously have NO IDEA what a socialist is
    your new name is johnny 20 watt

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. tom NY

    what a joke.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. caywen

    Democrat for McCain: The way I read that comment is that anyone with a full brain would vote for Obama.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. Robin

    If elected Palin will be in for a rude awakening about the actual role of VP.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. marty

    It is so nice to read all of these loving, caring responses. It is heartening to know that the party of family, love, tolerance, individual rights, free speech, blah, blah,blah, is wanting to 'unify' the country. Don't worry, demos, we will not forget the slander, the smears, the name-calling, the hatred, the threats. And you call yourselves caring and concerned. What noble people you are...NOT.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. James

    Lying Democrat for McCain said "Any one with 1/2 a brain will not vote for Obama. "

    Agreed. All of the half-brain voters are going for McCain. The ones with a full brain will vote for Obama.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  21. DB - Colorado

    Proof again that Palin is stupid AND power hungry. God help us all if this person ever made it remotely close to the Oval Office.

    Republicans, your need to revolt; McCain and Palin are making your party look really, really bad. Even a liberal Marine like myself knows you guys are not this dumb.


    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  22. Amy, Kazoo

    Kind of sounds like Palin needs someone in the campaign to break it down for HER third grade style. Any third grader understand what a tie breaker is. Just admit it already, you have NO CLUE.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  23. Deb

    I totally agree with you Fed Up. As an American woman it is disturbing to realize this woman could be our next vice president...and is a heartbeat away from the presidency. Did John McCain really put Country First when he selected her as his running mate?

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. TT

    An "Overstatement"? No, she's just dumb!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. TennTuxx

    you think Palin was a bad choice...wait until he gets in and chooses the rest of this inner circle! I'd rather have Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton!


    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
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