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. Crazy the race is still close

    you can't compare Biden to this ding-bat. He is an attorney who teaches law at a prestigious Univ, this dingbat took 6 years and 5 schools to get a degree in Journalism. As a 34 year old woman, with a Bachelors, MBA & PhD. I am really questioning why I am not running for VP.

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. Eugene

    The only reason that the Republicans get lampooned is for the silly things they say...and do. After Election Day we will all need to work to be unified as a country. In fact, this election cycle has not been as dirty and nasty as some in the past, believe it or not.

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. David Newport, OR

    Only in Alaska and dreams honey.

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. Sara

    She needs to go home to Alaska and take care of her dysfunctional family. They need her more than we do.

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. DustyM

    I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be more than glad to tutor Sarah on who's in charge of the Senate

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. Enrique

    At some point if you support McCain you need to cut your losses with Palin. I know it hurts but at some point you need to come to the realization of what a horrible choice as a governing person McCain made (As an election maneuver, he gets some brownie points)

    Yes, the media has shown biased for Obama, hard to argue with that (there is probably a reason for that, happy to get into that discussion some other time. So if you are an Obama supporter, fair coverage does not equal all good support for your candidate. Admit there is some bias and move on.

    As for the comment that Biden does not know the role of the vicepresident, give me a break. If you read the documentary by the New Yorker on his thought process for accepting the vicepresidential post, he knows exactly what this and any other major role in an administration is about.

    On the other hand, I have to admit the media is showing some bias with the timing of this article. Why? Because if you go back to what she said in the vicepresidential debate, this is exactly what she said. Which leads you to the Palin spokesperson response about just answering so a third grader could understand. That is absolutely not true, Palin made the same statements in much greater detail during the debate.

    Is there a 'debate' about what the Constitution says about the role of the VP, maybe in Cheney's and Palin's mind, every other POTUS and VP in history seemed to understand quite well.

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  7. Joe The Engineer

    Democrat for McCain, right anyone with half brain dont vote for Obama, you need full brain to understand the real problems in America and who caused it. no surprise you half to none brain person voting for Palin.

    Go Obama

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  8. steven the high school student for mccain

    the mccain-palin ticket is the best way to go because they have a way beter health care plan and they both have more experience than senator obama we need a republican to lead the great nation

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Christian in NYC


    Dumber than a bag o' hammers.

    Everytime this woman opens her mouth, a few more Independents and Undecideds run screaming to Obama.

    Thanks, Sarah!

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. John Dinwiddie

    I am amazed that this is taken as gently as it seems to be
    in the article. Indeed the article takes pains to inform the
    reader of the proper relationship of the Vice President to
    the Senate.

    Where I come from, a 6th grader knows this.

    In addition to the mistake itself, appalling and typical
    of this Manchurian candidate from what Chris Hedges
    has labeled the "Dominion" faction of the far right, it
    is an admission her ambition. This woman is no
    friend of Democracy. That somebody so ignorant and
    so arrogant has been allowed to get this close to
    power reduces our national claim to distance from
    Germany prior to WWII.

    Please, everyone, read Chris Hedges' American
    Fascists, The Christian Right and the War on America
    for background. We are under siege from an ugly,
    ugly quarter. Sarah is one of its spearheads.

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. 52 yr. old white Houston oil man

    All of the golden haired women of the world should rejoice that Sarah Palin has played such a vizable part in this election. Now we have to change all the blonde jokes to brunett!

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  12. Truthiswhatweneed

    "Lord please forgive her, for she knows not what she do".

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. JL

    This woman was found guilty of abuse of power, folks.

    It is no mistake or misstatement when she says she wants to take over the senate.

    She scares me.

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  14. JerriLou

    Hi, I am not sure where to enter this at. This is for the fact finders. Palin keeps talking about Obama being a socialist. I heard on the radio an interview with McCain during the Hard Ball tours and he was at Michigan St College. He took a question from a young lady that was complaining about her father having to pay her tutition and how much taxes he was having to pay. Her father is a doctor. McCain told her in his opinion he did not have a problem with someone who was very comfortable in their life paying more in taxes. I think that needs to be made public to even the playing field. I know this exists because I heard it on the radio this morning. A station in St. Louis, MO. It is 550 AM Talk Radio. The morning speaker could tell you exactly where he got that audio clip, I believe his name is McGraw.

    Thank you,
    Jerri Lou

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  15. Marsha Figgins

    Of course you would blast Sarah for misstating the role of VP, but Biden did it first and he should know far more than her what the VP's role is considering the number of years he's been in the senate. I'm so sick of everyone at CNN's far left views and onesidedness. McCain is not only right in accusing Obama of not getting it, unfortunately the media nor alot of Americans get it either! Equality please!

    October 22, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  16. OKAY

    I personally feel as though she wishes she could be the president. I mean look at what she is doing. She does not agree w/ him on a lot of important issues and her response to that is "we will just have to change his mind" Did she forget that she is VP! He is over her! think you will see her run for president in the next election

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |

    If Sarah Parlin answer questions as of a 3rd grade mentality she should be teaching pre-k and no running for vice president

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  18. George the writer

    I see Palin is stumping in ohio. Shouldn't hat read, "Palin stumped in Ohio"?
    "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength".

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Darrel from Denver

    This is not a one-off error. She has been consistent in this message, having stated it explicitly at least 4 times now.

    I don't think it is a mistake at all. I think it is her interpretation of the Constitution and how she intends to go about operating as the VP.

    Just a bit of a loose cannon, don't you think?

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 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. I beat her on three key issues:
    1. I never used my power to get anyone fired ( even though they said I did) I am glad that I was found not guilty (even though they said I was wrong)
    2. I always paid for my children to travel with me and bought their clothes for the trip.
    3. I know what the VP's job intells

    See I'm perfectly qualified!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. Tanya Kujath

    Another example of how unqualified or politically ignorant she would be as VP.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. Bama for Obama

    One is senile and the other is stupid, what a great combination!

    Stupid is as stupid does, that would explain their fan base

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. John in UPST NY


    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Rajesh

    The third grader played a 'Gotcha journalism' on Palin. LOL

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. Erik on Wall St.

    When I was in 3rd grade some guys from NASA came and gave a presentation on the Apollo program and the various types of technology they were using. We understood it.

    Having Palin claim that she had to say "in charge of the Senate" is non-sense....maybe if she were speaking at a pre-school I would buy that explaination. The average 3rd grader is probably Palin's intellectual superior!

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
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