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. Anonymous

    QUOTE: "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."

    What a ridiculous cop out. She IS a third grader when it comes to any working knowledge of government. Can't believe she made the same misstatement she made in the debate, after Joe Biden corrected her. It would be scary to have her a heartbeat away or her finger on the trigger.

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  2. bruce

    John McCain said today in an interview with Don Imus that he was "amazed at the criticism" Sarah Palin has gotten from Republicans... and his choosing her as he VP...

    He argued Palin has excited the "base".

    Well... Yes... Sarah Palin has excited the Republican base... That makes her a good cheerleader... she is a rebel-rouser... Great... we will give her that...

    She is not qualified to lead this country... by no means....

    John McCain made a political calculation to pander to Sen. Clinton's supporters and it failed... it absolutely failed... he gambled and he lost... Sarah Palin has become the primary reason he will lose this election... he used poor judgment is selecting a VP... she was not properly vetted... she has major baggage back in Alaska... and more than anything... time and time demonstrates... she has no clue what as to what she is talking about.

    This would be a completely different race, if John McCain had chosen Mitt Romney as his VP...

    The selection of Sarah Palin will go down in the history books as the biggest mistake and the reason he lost the 2008 Presidential Election....

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  3. jung

    how smart is joe biden.
    you have all drank the kool-aid!

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  4. Troy Fugnitti

    Does this lady even know what she is doing? I can't believe John McCain picked this woman as a running mate. I know that he wanted to make a splash, but aren't there more women in the republican party that would have been better suited?

    October 22, 2008 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. Stick to the Issues, Not Personal Attacks

    Listen to the vitriol seething out of these comments. This is why for the first time in my life I'm ashamed to be a Democrat. Thanks a bunch, people!

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

    Who did find for McWhatever this.... Alyaskian beauty? Now our exaggurated hero have to deal with all this crap. I used to be republican but not now. We are looking forward for reversed Bradly effect.

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. Mickie in PA

    She answered like a 3rd grader because she isn't even as smart as a 3rd grader. Has anyone checked to see if her degree (which took 5 different moves through community colleges) is real or did she get it from the internet or through republican arm-twisting like McCain got into the Academy. She obviously thinks she is impervious to vetting by anyone.

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. Linda/Michigan

    There are many democrats in Michigan who are voting for McCain. Howard Dean started the ball rolling when he backed Obama along with many of the superdelegates. The democratic party is no longer a blue collar, union loving party. Just by selecting Obama is proof of that.

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Ron

    Can you spell POTATO(e)?

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Laugh all you want, but there's a good chance you'll see her name surface in 2012. Imagine the specter of her debating Obama in the 2012 campaign?

    This reminds me of Quayle "correcting" the student on the correct way to spell "potato" – "You forgot the "e" at the end," Dan says. LOL!!!!!!!!!!

    If she runs for president, she's going to have to explain plenty – starting with the morals in her own family!

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  11. morris graham

    After all is said and done, dumb Palin will be blamed for McBush losing the election..., you betcha!

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  12. Jennifer

    To Democrat for Mccain.....way to go!!! Obama is a socialist, and his "tax credits" will leave america with the largest welfare system ever!! Giving tax credits to people who dont even pay income taxes....cmon now!!!! and then taxing corporations higher...dont you people realize that will just cause wages to be lowered and jobs to be cut.......but obama is trying to help the american people with this...righttttttttt

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  13. Onlooker

    What do you expect from someone who calls it the "Palin/McCain" ticket?

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  14. Leo, Oakland CA

    Funny, in her one an older VP debate she stated the same thing and at THAT time Biden corrected her. Why lie to a child in any way? Palin could have said any number of things in "terms" the 3rd grader could understand that were actually true. Does it surprise anyone that someone being investigated for corruption of power thinks she's going to go into the Senat and coral all the poor little senators who are lost without her guidance?

    If you put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig....

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  15. kent

    "tie- braking"?

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  16. Y

    It amazes me that Republicans would dare the compare Sarah Palin’s knowledge and experience to Obama’s. Obama is a Lawyer from Harvard, Palin is a dunce. Why do the Republicans ignore that Obama was an Illinois State senator for 7 years and a US Senator for 3 years, just like Abraham Lincoln. Palin was a state Governor for less than two years and she was on maternity leave for a large portion of the time. I'm insulted by the continual lies and manipulation of the Republicans to even compare Obama to this ignorant woman. They must really think Americans are stupid.

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  17. Karen from Charlottesville

    Further proof that John McCain made a huge mistake by pandering to the religious right with his selction of Pailin. There were so many intelligent people he could have chosen to elevate the standard for our elected officials. It's no wonder we are such a mess if someone like this can actually be considered a viable candidate,

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  18. Rob

    Ummm...can someone say scary. She proves day in and day out why she does not belong in Politics. She lacks knowledge and experience, some of many reasons why our family is voting for Obama. She is just plain scary!

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  19. Lori Smith

    This is so funny to me that our wonderful......media who by the way is deciding our election for us....has to go so low to insult the intelligent of Palin trying to explain to a CHILD what a VP does....she put it in the simpliest form for the understanding of a child... The sad part of the media involvement is that the undecided and liberals are falling for it .......Obama is just like every other man who has ever ran for office.....he will say and do anything to get in there....He has danced around so many questions...yet he is the great OBAMA according to the media....well has it ever occurred to anyone that if he Obama is for the little man why does he have so many Big Dawgs backing him....maybe because they feel like he will take care of them?????
    And why would you brag to us that are struggling to make it on how much your campaign made in just the matter of days.....you sure arent spreading that wealth Mr. Obama.....

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  20. My my my

    Poor thing. I love her new clothes though! She don't know jack, but she looks good. Ha. Obama/Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  21. Ryan S in KC

    This is not surprising. I'd be surprised if Sarah Palin knows how to tie her own shoes.

    It may have worked better for McCain to keep her under wraps, as he did throughout September and early October. He probably wishes he had vetted his VP selection properly.

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. SF/AZ

    So much for the gotcha journalism!She can't even handle a 3rd graders question!

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. Terry, Dallas Texas

    I bet there is not a minute that goes by that McCain wishes he had never picked her. He had a chance with Romney or even Lieberman. But he had to make the base happy. Sorry Republicans but this is going to be bloodbath for your party.

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  24. Randy in PA

    Why in the world would anybody vote for this pair?

    Palin has no idea what she is saying and if what she says is not divisive then it's idiotic. McCain talks about having an ability to change things, but, is constantly reinforcing the old ways of government.

    The gap between rich and poor has grown wider during the Bush years and John says it's OK! He wants more tax cuts? This man is NOT for changing squat. It's sooooo sad.

    We need a true change from the past. Obama!

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  25. bruce

    As an Independent Voter and Independent Voice… I suggest all supporters on both sides of the aisle, demonstrate the best qualities of the candidate they say they represent. The extreme discourse represents the worst of America’s ugly past…

    Had John McCain selected Mitt Romney as his VP... This would be a completely different race, in fact, I believe with a McCain/Romney ticket we would see a complete reversal in the polls. McCain's campaign strategy would have been completely different... Think about it... McCain would not have use negative and attack tactics and campaigning that has hurt him with independents. His weakness with the economy would have been strengthen with Romney on the ticket, erasing voter doubts, and he would have picked-up the endorsement on Colin Powell... one of the remaining republicans who most Americans respect.... All things would have been different with McCain had better judgment by not picking Sarah Palin as his VP... She was a liability from the beginning, he didn't vett her... McCain gambled his campaign away pandering to Sen. Clinton's supporters... BIG MISTAKE!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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