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. just saying

    This was covered in the VP debate. She didn't know what the VP did then and Biden lampooned her for it. That clearly hasn't changed much.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Joseph

    call it for what it is a lie
    she needs to read the constitution before she appear on National TV and make a fool of her self. It's ashame out of all the republican out there he chose her. If he wanted to pick a women pick someone whose qualify.

    October 22, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. Emma

    Sara Palin is not qualified to be VP.. SNL destroyed her creditably as VP..She keeps putting her foot in her mouth. The RNC shell out 150K for Palin's Fashions.. That money could of helped out alot of poor people in this country towards groceries bouchers.em

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

    You've gotta wonder what some of the Republican backers are being told, and/or reading. Looking at some of the comments they leave, leave you speechless. Where do they come up with some of this stuff? Are they watching the same things I am? Rediculous, just rediculous.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Dayton Miller

    GA – You hit the nail on the head, that is the perfect answer!

    GA Independent
    October 22nd, 2008 12:14 pm ET

    Why does the campaign continually have to explain what Palin meant to say?

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Lorna, NY

    What do you expect? The woman is an idiot...

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  7. Robert

    I am reminded of the video of her saying she does not know what the VP even does just weeks before she was picked. Evidently that has not changed. McCain lost my support in this one decision alone

    White Baptist Male (Republican) now voting for Obama.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  8. Xavier, Saint Louis, Missouri

    Less than two weeks to go and clueless airhead Palin can crawl back underneath the rock she came from. Good ridden!

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  9. DAVE

    SARAH IS PERFECT for president.. The Neo Cons can't wait to get their hands on her. She will be a female George Bush, with less experience. She cannot think for herself, she is uneducated, and will divide this once great nation even more. To think that she is one heart beat away from being our president is the truly depressing. That the Repubes would pull a nasty trick like this on our country is incredible. oh, wait, I forgot "God" is on her side .. hahahahahahah !! VOTE OBAMA

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  10. gove

    Palin will become a GOP scapegoat after Nov 4 and I will be surprised if Alaska reelects her.

    Obama and Biden will have a difficult task after Nov 4 repairing this great country. This country will, happily or not, have to put divisions aside and find workable solutions.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. Kim

    Sadly, there is just no cure for stupid.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  12. Linda, Michigan

    Her dumb comment should not be a surprise anymore. She simply does NOT read.

    Still wondering how she even ends up as a governer of Alaska????

    Send her back to school – she might make it to 3rd grade – LOL.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  13. Concerned Citizen

    Palin's coment is silly. And may even be "explained" as her way of talking to a third-grader. But it falls in line with her comment during the debates that she agrees with vice president Cheney's "interpretation" of the constitution that the vice president is not subject to the Congress' checks becuase he is a member of the legislative and executive branches. This is troubling. One of the most basic tenets of American democracy is the system of checks and balances. In that time-tested system, the vp's sole legislative role is to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. That's it. For all else, she/he is a member of the executive branch. Aside from tradition and strict constructionalism of the constitution, this matters because Cheney uses his interpretation of the constitution as a shield against Congress' investigation on various matters, including the exposure of a CIA agent by the VP. Ms. Palin has just been found to have abused her power – or, at least – to have allowed her husband to abuse her power (bizarre, but that's what it is). If she's elected, therefore, we need Congress to do its constitutional duty and check her. But if she's the "head of the Senate", how is that supposed to happen?

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  14. Jim

    The smell is getting so strong from the Mcain camp they will need Joe the plumber soon to deal with it

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  15. Heather

    Is she dressing as a scarecrow for Halloween so she can ask the Wizard for a Brain?

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  16. Bridgette-PA

    "Democrat for McCain" – Your not a McCain supporter, stop blogging, you just want attention like a lost soul. You didn't even know the role of a V.P. yourself. You and Sarah will look good together in Alaska, because that's where your idol will be in 2 weeks! LOL.....LOL.....LOL......

    OBAMA/BIDEN -08!

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Linda31

    How many times you do get a do over????

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. Sarah Palin Shoots Wolves

    Sarah Palin misstated the role of the elected office for which she is running, in response to a question from an actual 3rd grader... and the worst part is that I don't think anyone is surprised. Seriously.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  19. ANON

    To the Democrat voting for McCain and who called Obama a socialist. Let me tell you what socialist is – it is your donations to the RNC being used to make sure that Sarah Palin is always well dressed, while many will go to bed this winter without a jacket. That's socialism my friend.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  20. Enoch

    Dick Cheney in a Dress!

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. susie

    Biden really misspoke last Sunday, about an international crisis is going to occur. How come the media isn't reporting what he said?

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. jim saint paul

    The next question should be, "Can you spell potatoe?"

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. Mike

    She was talking to a 3rd grader!!! Do you people want her to say, "Well, according to Article 1 of the Constitution..." I thought it was a fine answer to give an 8 year old and the media still jumps on her. Why have I not seen numerous headlines about Biden's gaffes...oh, that's right, the biased media wants the GOP to seem like idiots and promote the Dem's false sense of intellectual superiority.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  24. Clinton Democrat

    Give Gov. Palin a break.

    She's been really bogged down lately with not paying her all of her income taxes, abusing her power in Alaska, and using up $150,000 for enough clothes for her and her family....

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  25. AB

    "Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for Palin, said the Alaska governor was simply answering the question in a way a third-grader could understand."

    That's because Palin either thinks very little of the intelligence of others or she, herself, cannot think above a third grade level.

    Either way it's bad news for America!

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49