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. RDS

    It still amazes me that after all this time she has been running she has yet to figure out what the JOB DESCRIPTION is! Oh my goodness, the average 5th grader can tell you what the VP's role is. I mean any day now I'm waiting for the McCain camp to come out and tell us we got punk'd and Palin is not the real VP pick.

    October 22, 2008 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. bernj

    This lady is mindless.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. Is Palin "Smarter Than A Fifth Grader" no,no,nono,no,nono,no,nono,no,nono,no,no

    Can someone request that Gov. Palin learn what a Vice President job is. This is sickening.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. irony

    don't fall for it. She said in the debate that she admired cheney for expanding the role of the vice-presidency and that the vice president is not under either the Executive or Legislative branch of government. She has no constitutional education or knowledge. Another example was when Katie Couric asked her about a "right to privacy" in the Constitution and she said she believes Americans have a constitutional right to privacy. Then the next question she answered she said she opposed Roe v. Wade. She doesn't even understand the most basic constitutional principle that Roe v. Wade is based on the constitutional right to privacy as interpreted by the Supreme Court. No where in the US Constitution does it say "right to privacy." In 1973, the US Supreme Court interpreted the Constitution to say that Americans have a right to privacy to make decisions as it relates to their health and medical treatment. palin doesn't understand that the right to privacy she believes Americans have is contrary to her opposition to Roe v. Wade. Maybe she thinks it means you can have sex on a track or in a piper plane or in Bristol or in a van or under a willow and no one should watch.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |

    "stating it so a 3rd grader could understand" more like making a 3rd grader dumber..if that question comes up on a test and the teacher grades it stating that the answer was incorrect, what should you say. The Rep VP nom said it was true..should be marked corrrect just because she said it. NO!! NO!! NO!! THE ANSWER IS WRONG!!! WRONG!!! WRONG!! SHE GETS AND F ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBLITES OF VP!!!

    Even I know that..maybe McCain should have picked me for his running mate..I'm a woman and football mom. I regularly go against the coach and refs. I supported new school uniforms, until I didn't because no one else agreed with me.

    See I'm perfectly qualified!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  6. John in UPST NY


    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. grahame

    Dear Democrat for McCain.
    Obviously you have the mental capacity of a slug, plus the I.Q. the same as your shoe size

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. drbenk

    The third grader didn't know and Palin didn't know. The third grader has probably been to IHOP and has more international experience than Palin, too.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  9. Chicken Little

    Dem for McCain –

    You don't get out much, do you?

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. Lynn R.

    Democrat for McCain yuu are sick as hell. You and Sara should be cousins. How in the hell can you explain to a child that is smarter than you that a VP don't know her role. Maybe you are joking about this but that shows you are not smarter than an infant to put up with this nonsense.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  11. Matt

    Someone please get Sarah Palin a copy of HBO's John Adams. It will help her understand the role of the VP much more clearly.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Obama08FL

    Max – I think you are an idiot for even sticking up for this Moron. Palin really in her mind thinks she would control the Senate, because she said it in her debate. She said she would want control of the Senate. I think you were too much trying to see what she has on underneath her clothes rather than listen to her.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  13. Chut Pata

    ... and this clueless woman claims she has executive experience that even McCain does not have.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  14. Michael

    Gee, what a gaffe! At least Govenor Palin has enough integrity to use her own words and is not a fraudulent writer and verbal thief with hair plugs.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  15. Pat

    I truly worry about the education of her own children. Why are they on the campaign trail with her and not in school? They're missing out on their childhood, socialization with peers, friends and their own, education in a big and neglectful way.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  16. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. SoCal

    The job of the VP is to wink at the camera during interviews…

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. LT in IL

    If memory serves, didnt Biden pull the same stunt trying to explain the VP??? Look who gets soooo much more attention. Its not that big of a deal -its accurate but dependent upon many things.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. Mary Jo Smith

    get over it folks...Obama is gonna win big time...back to alaska with yah bimbo!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. Ron

    As well she should take heat – and lots of it.

    This is a job interviewand she does not even know what the job is! Just reinfoces the fact that she is not qualified to be VP and certaintly not President! Voter's know this – Being President and VP is not a talent / beauty contect. Content and ability matter and right now whe needs to g oback to school

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  21. walter poe

    oh yea, theres a winner.....NOT.....

    Where is the school teacher that taught her this.? Somebody should revoke her Retirement plan and teaching permit....This poor woman has grown up all this time with wrong information.......

    Oh yea, she sure is qualified......NOT!

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  22. Kevin in ND

    Is Sarah Palin smarter than a 3rd-grader?

    No. She's actually closer to a box of rocks.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  23. Joe The Engineer

    How many times she need to prove that she is dumb you idiot repubs, oh i forgot you repubs are dumb racists, right? i forgot, my bad.

    Obama The Next President of America

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  24. Elizabeth

    I am hoping we will see and hear the last of that "cocky wacho" Palin in a few weeks so that we do not have to hear and see her again! She is obnoxious and ignorant! That voice of hers is irritating!

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. Mila

    Palin is so clueless, she wore a Democratic scarf while campaigning yesterday. She doesn't even know the symbol of the GOP.

    Maybe someone bought it for her during her $150,000 clothes shopping spree.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
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