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. Franky

    You know, the simple answer would be is to help the President. And by the way, you swear the third grader is gonna write a book report on it.

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  2. Eliz

    I'm sorry, but did I just read this?

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

    Good God, what happened to the Republican party, are they all either clueless or utterly ignorant?

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  3. Failin Palin

    So....guess it is okay with Palin backers to deceive 3rd graders? After all they are just kids....and we can lie to them huh?
    You Sara Palin are pathetic example of a vice-presidentail candidate.

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. BT

    To Democrat for a change – the Republicans have quit citing ACORN has a factor in this race becuase their OWN hands have been found to be much dirtier in California. Do you not watch the news? Yes, that's right – a Republican paid registration taker has been BOOKED for fraudulent registration. Signing people up as Republican when they requested Democrat and also – he himself was registered in two (I will make it easy for you "2") states.
    Geez, Buddy – if you don't know what you are talking about – learn to read or at least watch some news. You sir, are a baffoon!

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  5. CJ

    To use her argument of experience.....she would have more experience than McCain also.....scary!!!! None of them have the presidential experience. Obama has proven time and again that he has the tempermant, knowledge and personality to be the President. I can't say that about McCain.

    Obama/Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  6. Florence, SC

    NEWS FLASH – Sarah Palin IS NOT smater than a 3rd grader !

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  7. John, Virginia

    Look, the Democrats don't know whats in the constitution because they have no respect for it. Its not the Bill of Rights, its the Bill of Suggestions.

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. rae


    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  9. Georgia Gal

    Back to 2nd Grade for you Sarah!

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Debby

    Oh brother so she misspoke big deal already. We know the Messiah is going to be President courtesy of the liberal media. It would be nice for the VP to get involved in the Senate or Congress since it seems the last 2 years they haven't been able to make good decisions.

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  11. Typical White Person

    Give me a freakin' break. Biden says that Obama's election will result in a manufactured crisis within 6 months to test him and that he will need help AND that his response won't seem appropriate.

    And you guys are ragging on Palin for answering a third grader's question with a response at the third grade level?

    I agree, if the Lame Stream Media were anymore in the tank they would be called Rommell ... or Dukakis...

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. A. Rohani

    Is it really too much to ask for to have an intelligent president/VP in the white house?

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  13. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Hey Sacto Joe:

    The VP presides over the House of Representatives. Get it, now?

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  14. Jay

    Democrat for McCain...

    You are hardly a Democrat. Most likely a Republican posing as a Democrat. And after your comment, I wonder about your intelligence level. I'm not sure how anybody can say Obama is "not that smart" when you have Alaska Barbie making ridiculous statements like this. The woman has no idea what the Constitution even says.

    Anybody who votes for these clowns really has to take a good look at themselves in the mirror and decide what kind of person they truly are.

    I'm an Independent, not posing as a Democrat or a Republican. I'm an Independent who donated money to McCain back in the primaries because I THOUGHT he was man of honor and integrity. I will NOT be voting for him in two weeks. NO WAY, NO HOW!

    Obama has proven to be thoughtful, articulate, intelligent, and steady in a time of a crises. McCain has proven to me that his best days are long behind him and it's time for him to retire into the Arizona sunset. We need a President whose best days are in front of him, not behind them.

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. ab

    Anyone (I'm looking at you splurge) who claims the media is biased should remember the nonstop horse whipping Obama got over Rev. Wright. Where was the "media hates us" rants when Obama would getting raked over the coals during the primary?

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Brandon

    The answer to this question automatically qualifies her to a contestant on "Are you Smarter than a Third Grader".

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  17. Hockey mom with lipstick

    I tried listening to Palin to see if something she says makes any sense. I feel for McCain with this one. If McCain were elected as President, she would probably try and steal the job right away from him. KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS OPEN WITH THIS ONE, MCCAIN. Good luck!! You would have definitely received my vote until you unleashed the BEAST!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  18. Mark

    Sara, Wisconsin, where in the Constitution is the Vice Presidency declared the "second highest office in our land?" To quote one prominent (Democrat) Vice-President, John Garner, “the vice presidency is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”

    Relax people.

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  19. carol kesling

    im glad i voted on oct 13th... GO OBAMA AND BIDEN !!!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |


    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  21. who cares what the moron babbles?

    i mean, we got nothing else to worry about?


    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. Danny G

    "Stupid is as stupid does."
    –Forest Gump

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. FLforObama08

    I am pleased to see that at least the news media are catching her on this. I don't feel that she is dumb for this and I feel that a lot of comments on here are overreacting. She's clearly just another Cheneyesque politician, once again too powerful and takes advantage of her role in government. I hope that voters realize this and just how corrupt she is when she is in control of anything. We can't allow this type of government to continue to run our country!
    Obama-Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  24. Lis

    I like that. The VP Sarah may not like it, but:
    The Speaker of House is in charge of the House of Representatives. The Senators are in charge of the Senate.
    And now Sarah Palin can go back to govern Alaska.

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  25. R. Gastauer

    What a moron! Perhaps she is better suited for a career in show biz! She is funny and likes public attention! John McBush must be sorry, however, that she has gained so much attention!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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