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. Dan, Mpls

    Palin probably thinks Speaker of the House is the sound system used in Congress

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Amber, Centreville, VA

    Why am I not surprised? Did anyone bother to tell her what her role as VP would be before (or after) she was picked? I guess not. Even then, for someone in her position (ex-Mayer, Governor) to not know what the VP does is alarming. Anyone who is voting for McCain should be concerned about this lack of basic civics knowledge by her. In these times of grave economic concern and multiple crises looming, we need as VP someone with a deep intellectual capacity and understanding of the issues- who can give sound advice and challenge the President. And here we have Sarah Palin, who is obviously lacking the intellect and knowledge that is demanded of someone in her position. As an independent woman and a mother of 2, I am really offended by her selection as VP by John McCain and I really fear for our country’s future if he is elected, knowing that this woman may be called upon to take his place and run the free world. Really scary!

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 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 exuse for a vice-presidential candidate.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  4. JR, Columbus, Ohio

    Come on, people. Read the constitution. Do you think "President of the Senate" has no meaning? Palin is absolutely correct. Gwen Ifill understood, why can't CNN?

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  5. Heather in SoCal

    Palin makes Dan Quayle look like a rocket scientist.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. irony

    to Democrat for Mccain: you are right. Any one with 1/2 of a brain won't vote for Obama but the rest of us with 1/1 of a brain like him.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  7. Secretary

    Once again Palin puts her foot in her mouth, and just like a pit bull has a hard time letting go of it.

    She's a joke in the USA and according to world reports she is a joke all over the world. Eurppean countries can't imagine why she was picked as a presidential candidate's running mate.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. Edward

    We all know Barack Obama paid that child to ask that question.

    Seriously Sarah, you would think those 5 colleges you attended to get your Bachelors Degree would have tought you something.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Unbelievable

    This woman has been asked this question a few times, and has yet to get it right! She did not explain it in terms a third grader could understand, she explained it the way she wants it to be and possibly even believes it to be. This just so happens to match the intellect of a third grader (not someone who should be running for VP)– so it worked out for her.

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Tyran

    Gov. Palin was serious! She really doesn't have an understanding of what the Vice-President role is. She thinks she can change Washington without knowing Washington. That is the difference between herself and Obama. Obama KNOWS Washington and seeks to change it. He already has the special relationships he needs to change Washington, Palin is too far on the outside. So, let's stop making excuses for the governor Americans and face the reality that Gov. Palin was John McCain over-reacting to Barack Obama speech at the DNC. Sarah Palin is just not ready yet to be Vice-President.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. NY

    To: Democrat for McCain

    Maybe you should take a walk on that infamous Bridge to Nowhere!! You might actually find some common sense!!

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  12. International Standards Engineer

    About the TAX situation – think about this:
    The big difference for me as a business participant – is how does taxing affect us, the business.

    Take a $100Mil Company, lets say we have this sort of P&L balance sheet levels. To keep it simple and in round numbers.

    Size $100 Mil Company
    Profit $10 Mil – ie 10% This is what we will be taxed on.
    Cost of Sales $20 Mil – ~20%
    R&D -new product development – $10 Mil ~ 10%
    Cost of Good Sold – including Admin and Management – ie all labor cost.
    Let say that material purchase to produce the product line in 30% or $30 Mils
    So our labor cost are $30Mil
    Now we will – via the Obama plan go from 20% tax rate on the $10 Profit or $2Mils to 40% tax or $4Mils. – or worse!
    So I have to live with telling the stock market profit will fall from 10% to 8% – NOT a good idea.
    or – I have to reduce our sales efforts – thats NOT a good idea – is it? We will lose sales which means layoffs
    or – I have to reduce labor cost.- well I can layoff people in the US and move more of our labor off shore.
    That is really the most likely result – but is really bad for balance of trade! as we will import more of our product parts.
    None the less, let say the average payroll was $30K per person and I need to make up $2Million – that's ~ 65 jobs that Obama will cost the US!

    It' pretty simple to me. We can argue about the example numbers – but the point is clear! OR put in more detail, but the end effect is the same. TAXing business cost us all US JOBS.

    McCain is rigth! Obama, never had any budget experience – to use his terms – Obama doesn't get it!

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. Gerry

    Stupid is as stupid does.

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Jerry

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

    I'm relieved she is not a teacher! The bottom line to this whole thing is that in two weeks she can go back to governing Alaska and we will all have laughed about what a stupid pick she was. Sorry Johnny, looks like you don't get to be president.....

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. Scott, Ann Arbor, MI

    She is scary ignorant. I'm willing to accept that, even though she was being interviewed by an adult, that she wanted to respond in a way a 3rd grader would understand, since a 3rd grader asked the question. HOWEVER, her answer is not only wrong, but not at a 3rd grade level. I have a third grader, and she understands that if you have a 50-50 tie that the VP can be the tie-breaking vote; at least she understands that more than "good policy changes" and inacurately describing the job.

    When you add that to the fact that Republican party is picking up the tab for most of her recent clothing shopping sprees, it really makes me wonder what has happened to the fundmental philosophy of Republicans. I've been a Republican my entire adult life, but the recent options that party has given me really has me scratching my head...

    October 22, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Monti, MI

    Ok, explaining something like this in a way that a 3rd grader can understand might be difficult. However, we just dicussed this here during lunchbreak and everybody would have used the term "working with the Senate" instead of "in charge of the Senate". Unless they are going to bend the constitution which wouldn't personally surprise me since McCain has no backbone to stop her.
    Besides that the republicans have no program at all (other than doing everything pretty much the same like the last 8 years) ... the idea that Gov. Palin might be really "in charge" scares the sh.. out of me. And I guess, it does for the rest of the world.

    October 22, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  17. Marie, indiana

    Just once.. can a palin spokesperson answer a question without sounding like a 3rd grader? Every time she misspeaks, is challenged on abuse of power, etc. they respond with :well...Obama does it too!!!!
    OWN UP

    October 22, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  18. MD voter

    If the Vice President is in charge of the Senate, then how come their office is in the Old Executive Building and not on Capitol Hill?

    October 22, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  19. john

    Funny, seems during the debate Biden couldn't get it right either.

    October 22, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  20. Rox

    She was too busy spending $150k of campaign money on clothes–she didn't have time to actually learn what the VP does. She's a regular gal doncha know–I regularly spend $150K on clothing! Don't you?

    October 22, 2008 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  21. John in UPST NY

    Article I of the U.S. Constitution, the vice president is the "President" of the Senate....LOOK IT UP

    October 22, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  22. Harold

    This is not the first time she has mistated the role of the VP. Having been downsized recently from my job, consultants helping me find a new job have stressed to do my home work prior to interviewing for a new position.
    It makes no sense for this lady after all this time seeking the position not to have become well verse in what the position involves.
    Spin, spin, spin, this is down right ridiculous. If you want a job, at least have an understanding what the job is. This makes me sick to my stomach!

    October 22, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  23. republican voting for obama

    this is just a million of other things that palin doesn't know and understand.

    it makes me mad that she doesn't know more than a grade 3 child.

    she only wants to spend more of tax payers money for her hair and make up and clothes. 150 000.00 more.

    she also wants to tote her kids around 21 000.00 more so that she can live off americans taxes.

    say no to palin.

    she is a total disgrace to all american women.


    October 22, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |

    So Palin's is going to go in there and be in charge of the U.S. Senate....Yeh right...try telling that to Hillary; that Palin is going to be in charge of her.....People get a clue...this woman is not ready to be V.P....and I say that because I'm scared she's going to be the President, because I don't think John is going to make it through the first term.

    Vote Obama/Biden

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  25. Granger

    We've finally found a role Sarah Palin "might" be qualified for...third grade Vice President!

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
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