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. Ruth-germantown

    Whatever happens Nov 4th, I just hope we are not held hostage to four years of Sara! We will become the laughing stock of all nations.

    Come on Sara for heaven sake! pick up a book.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. Sherman

    Readers should check out Joe Biden's understanding of the VP. He's an attorney and recently couldn't even remember which article of the constitution covers the executive branch and which covers the legislative branch. That's covered in 5th grade social studies, high school government and the first year of law school and he still missed it!

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  3. romanbutt

    to Susie who claims that the media isn't covering Biden's comments.... hate to break it to you, but they are.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. Dawn

    Can you spell Impeachment? Sarah Palin please go on line and read the U.S. Constitution it may surprise you.

    Vote please and shut this woman up!!!!!!

    Obama/Biden is the right choice...

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Edward

    I think she actually is auditioning for "Saturday Night Live." I don't think you were that good though on it, Sarah. Maybe you can get a job reading the news at a local station in Juneau?

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Cathy Brandes

    To those of you commenting on Joe Biden's statement pertaining to a potential crisis. I believe he was stating that if that occurs, we need a calm, collected, reasonable person to address these types of situation namely Barack Obama.
    Gov. Palin has again showed she is not ready for this job.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. Charlie Bradley

    It's sad really, when a third grader, someone one third of a supposedly intellegent woman's age, speaks the words which reveal how clueless a woman is about her potential job. I suppose she'll dismiss this as explaining it in a way that a third grader would understand; which would be perfectly acceptable if she didn't treat the rest of the Country with a third grade mentality.

    The only reason she is in the potential position she finds herself is that People of the lowest denominator, often seek to find the lowest common denominator.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. CM

    How is giving a third grader an incorrect answer responding at their level?

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Billy

    Palin is a dangerous, unqualified menace to our country and Constitution.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. Rosa, b'ham al

    Again? You mean she didn't figure this out after she screwed this up at the last debate? Maybe she subscribes to the Dick Cheney rewrite of the Constitution. Scary.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. TheQuickBrownFox

    Sarah Palin should have known that the little third-grader wanted a technical answer and should not have attempted to simplify matters.

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

    So what do Vice Presidential Candidates do?

    Lose elections for perfectly good presidential candidates.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. tired of the one sided media

    If i am not mistake the other VP contender also gave a wrong answer a few weeks back. But I guess you missed that as usual.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. South Jersey

    well NOW SHE KNOWS

    it's 'sorta like wachin' Putin Rear his Head'

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  15. Republican 4 Obama

    suddenly McCain has started knowing that he is supposed to be issuing out suggestions on how to put our economy back on track, we i have voted 4 Obama in early voting and i don't regret my option.

    October 22, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. SoCal

    She should listen to a couple of Michelle Obama's rally...
    Maybe she would understand that there's a difference between a political campaign and moose hunting...

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. marcus

    This statement coming from her doesnt suprise me at all, this is why she should never be vice-president, and her running mate should never be in the white-house.

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Onlooker

    I think this was a mistake and was meant to be played on SNL this weekend. It's a skit folks so just calm down.

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. LEST

    In all seriousness Pallin is best suited for comedy shows. She is so hilarious!!! and she should put her country first by voting Obama/Biden 08.

    And let America say AMEN

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Judy Zukoski, Barnesville, PA

    What a dolt. She has a third grader's understanding of what the Vice President does.

    Maybe she needs to take questions from first graders.

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. Palin=Socialist

    Redistributes oil wealth to Alaskan citizens.
    Redistributes Alaskans citizens' wealth (taxes) to airlines and hotels to accommodate her children on fraudulent pretexts.

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  22. I can see Russia

    We've tried stupid for 8 years, it didn't work. Lets try smart this time.


    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. Joel

    Typical one-side media coverage of the Presidential Election.

    You're all waiting for my hand-out...

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  24. Wise White Guy

    Is this really a surprise to anyone? I am fairly certain that myself and most of my friends are more capable of holding this position than she is. Nice pick JOHN! Your gut really makes some good decisions JOHN! Way to show your judgment and ability to lead the largest country in the world JOHN! Think i will stick to the intelligent, calm, steady candidate who made an excellent selection of VP. Obama/Biden

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  25. Gracie

    Do you ever notice that Sarah Palin always balls up her hand every time she doesn't have a clue or answer to a questions. Then she starts pointing with her balled up hand. What's up with that?

    If you watch ALL her past interviews, she constantly balls her palm up when she's clueless and then she just starts rambling off "sweet nothings" in the hopes that people don't realize she's an idiot!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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