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. Joe Independent

    Yes, you are all right. "Tie Breaker" is very descriptive of what VP and the Senate does.

    Breaks ties regarding what? On "things that make your life better for you and your family." Gee, that sounds a bit more substantive than "tie breaker" n'est ce pas?

    October 22, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. dolarbil


    October 22, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. Sue

    I would have thought the first thing she would have asked McCain when he nominated her as his VP, was what are the responsibilities of a Vice President........cause it is very plain to see that she didn't know and still doesn't know...........but she sure looks nice in all those Name Brand clothes and hairdo's they have spent on herand her family.($150,000,00).........maybe that is why she wants the job of VP.........McCain has promised her and her family a warerode and hair style budget for the next 4 years.......

    October 22, 2008 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. Henry from CA

    Is she smarter than 3rd grader? My answer is "NO".
    "She has ignited her fans" McCan't said about her. I think so. If RNC has spent more than 150K of "Joe the Plumper"'s donation to clothe her, her fans would be more ignited, and the big department stores are more exited.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  5. George of Texas

    "... and a lot of 'good' policy changes..."

    McSame is putting our country at risk by selecting Miss Fallin who would be 72-year old heart beat away from presidency.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  6. Alan

    NOTICE FROM MCCAIN CAMP: Sarah Palin will no longer be available for third graders' questions.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |

    The scariest thing to me are the people on this blog who actually support this TOTALLY INEPT WOMAN! What is WRONG

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  8. Ed Olan - Virginia

    Hi Terry:

    I watch all the debates includind the one for the VP, and Yes Joe Biden did correctly stated the roles of VP as defined by our constitution. You need to watch the tape again and listen carefully to his resonse to that question, and if you don't have a copy of the tape, I will be glad to send you one.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  9. cjg

    Sorry it was just not the answer to a 3rd graders question.

    She made the same statemnet in the VP debate!

    I quess her answer is what she was told it was.

    In July she did not even know what a VP did.

    She still does not!

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  10. Clinton Democrat for Obama

    A third grader's question being answered by the intellectual curiosity of a third grader (the one and only Sarah Palin)

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  11. I used to Love Sarah Palin

    Are all you hard-working folks, who gave money to Palin, happy that
    $ 150,000.00 was spent to buy clothes for Sarah and her family?

    Talk about spreading the wealth.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. Milton, Harrisburg, PA

    Sarah fails the 10th grade civics test again. I might even forgive her for asking what the V.P. does until she actually agreed to do it. There is no excuse now. She is either willfully ignorant (i.e. anti-intellectual) or simply has an IQ too low to comprehend the concept. I'm not sure which is worse.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  13. Mike

    Hmmmm Dan Quayle could not spell potato.......Sarah Palin does not know how the VP/Senate operates..........two clueless Republicans!

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2008

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. Captain Obvious

    "She was explaining in terms a third-grader could understand that the vice-president is also president of the U.S. Senate."

    Was she also speaking to 3rd-grade viewers during the recent VP debate in which she gave a lengthier version of the same answer? Biden immediately called her out on that answer, but it didn't seem to get any attention after the debate. Thank goodness she repeated it for those people that missed it the first time.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  15. Ken

    Why isn't there more outrage regarding the fact that voters names are being removed from the list. There is a report that for ever voter registered, two are removed. Why is there no outcry? What are the democrats doing to address this?

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  16. Walt

    James in SC,

    Even Alaska deserves better than Palin. After her abuse of power, both in efforts to get an employee fired, and her abuse of travel privileges for her children, they should impeach her immediately.

    Apparently she wants to abuse the powers of the VP too, LOL!!!


    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  17. Beverlee (WI)

    That is the second time she has basically said that, and it wasn't to 3rd grader the first time, now was it?? Maybe she should quit speaking to those kids and have a seat next to them!

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  18. People make no sense

    A terrorist website says they want to harm America before the election so McCain can win the Presidency and he can continue Bush's policies of self destruction.

    I guess we didn't learn from the Russia – Afghanstan war.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. kendall

    she is the new face of the GOP, Yeah right more like the Poster Child for its destruction

    No Palin No way

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  20. Educated

    I've finally figured out that Palin thinks she is competing in a beauty contest. You know the contests where the pretty face spews out the most inane answers. She really thinks that her beauty will overcome her brainless answers and win the contest and she will get some nice roses and a spiffy crown. Honey, this aint no beauty contest. I have had enough of the past eight years and McSame is no different than Bush. I'm really glad that people are turned off by the nastiness of the McCane campaign.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  21. bernie

    ooooh... my god! my headache is getting worst! please!!!!! don't ask question on this woman anymore! P L E A S E !!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  22. Mohsen Emami

    When it comes to broad knowledge of anything about any subject regarding the US government, Sara Palin does not know anything. She abviously does not even know what her role will be as VP of US if McCain becomes the president. It is absolutely mind bogelling as to why John McCain chose someone like Sara Palin to be his running mate.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  23. Woman Against Palin

    How in the world ANYONE can vote for McCain/Palin is beyond me. This woman is STUPID. And he is even worse for picking her. He absolutely did not put his country first. Let's forget about the economy for a moment. McShame's pick as Palin for VP should be the focus. It is absolutely absurd and I might add disrespectful that he picked her. McShame picking her is a total slap in the face to forward thinking Americans. I am so sickened by him and her. Mean, vindictive, divisive, holier-than though, stupid, the list goes on. Please make this insanity stop. Vote Obama/Biden.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. Republicans= Me First Country Last

    The only thing remotely entertaining left in this election is watching and reading the excuses and spin the McCain/Palin supporters make for their sorry excuse for candidates.

    BTW, I just explained, truthfully, to my 3rd grader what the VP does so if Palin needs some advice give him a call.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. W

    Didn't anyone catch that she said the same thing in the VP debate? And Biden corrected her in is answer.

    October 22, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
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