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. Pat

    Granted it has never been challenged and sent to the Supreme Court but the following 2 clauses are in the Constitution in Black and White. If the Vice-President is at the Senate (look at clause 5) they run the show. I dare say any law that says otherwise could be challenged and sent to the Supreme Court for interpretation. To say she mistated and for you to say the VP is not President of the Senate would mean you need to go to 8th grade Civics. Now Joe Biden said all the VP does is break a tie (ignoring President of the Senate) but that would only explain clause 4 but not clause 5.

    Clause 4: The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

    Clause 5: The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  2. K L

    Leave Gov. Palin alone, I'm not even a Republican, but I think everyone is tooooo harsh. Why isn't everyone asking Obama hard questions, and picking apart everything he says? He is running for President, not the Vice President. He should have way more experience then Palin, and he doesn't he has less. Start picking Obama, or leave Palin alone.

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. eds

    Don't insult 3rd graders. They understand the system better than Palin.

    $150K on CLOTHES??? That is more than my HOUSE is worth! That is more than I make (GROSS) in three years?
    This is "just like you" and "joe six pack" ?????????????

    Get a clue, lady

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Throw her under the bus already...

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. SoCal

    I think, honestly, she doesn't have a clue of what her role would be in a McCain administration... but she perfectly understand her role in the current McCain's campaign... she's just moose hunting...

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. Jim

    Was she looking in the mrror when she was talking the 3rd graders?

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  7. bill


    IN FACT, Article I clearly states that the VP is the President of the Senate....NOT just during a deciding vote...ALL THE TIME. In fact the VP didn't even sit on the Cabinet of the President until 1921...until then he was "so involved in legislative affairs so as to be virtually excluded from the executive affairs of the nation." This is from "The Constitution its sources and application, written in 1922.

    So before you criticize, TRY actually sitting down and reading the Constitution FIRST.

    October 22, 2008 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  8. Peter from Arizona

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

    I guess we should conclude that Palin has a 3rd grader's understanding of the role of a VP?

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  9. Georgia Gal

    Let me correct one thing I just said.

    Instead of saying just Republicans I should've maybe said "ultra right wing republicans" or McCain supporters. Sorry if I offended any open minded Republicans out there.

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  10. Allan

    Nice red leather jacket, Sarah! How much of Republican donors' money did you spend on it?

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  11. CM

    The comment shows Palin for the ignoramus she is!

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  12. chris & tom bay shore ny

    i can not believe this poor excuse of a woman, let alone a vp wanna be. Oh my God, send her and her family back to Alaska and let the good people there deal with her. John Mcshame did the democrats a great favor when he picked her for his running mate. she can't even get the question right from a 3rd grader, or will the rethugs say he was an obama plant?? yeah, just like joe the plumber. what losers. i can't wait to go and vote for the next president of this great country, OBAMA 08&12.

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  13. Sandy

    If Gov. Palin is going to explain what the Vice President does, for a 3rd grader to understand, she may want to consider explaining it to him correctly.

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  14. Mike in Columbus

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

    BS! She gave an honest answer based on what she thinks the VP does. She has no clue, and apparently the puppetiers forgot to cover this one.

    Why do we always have to have someone tell us what Sarah "really meant", the day after she says something. When will she be able to get her own points across without being missunderstood, or saying something totally incorrect.

    When will the excuses for Sarah Palin stop???

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  15. Dax

    Democrat for McCain... You idiot! Research shows it was more of a matter of ACORN workers defrauding ACORN. They fabricated registrations (Dem and Rep.) to get paid. Although ACORN identified most of the bad forms, they are still required by Fed Law to turn them in. If they didn't you and the rest of the nut job neocons would claim they were only culling the Republican registrations. Besides you need to know registration fraud does not mean voter fraud. Unless someone is stupid enough, maybe you, to let Bob’s Bigboy vote

    I would implore to think before you post but I can only imagine how hard it must be with only half a brain!

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  16. Denise

    Is this what McCain calls "Country First?"

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  17. Mark G.

    She answered the question so a third grader to understand according to her spokesperson, only because Palin is over her head and is incompetent. The Peter Principle keeps slamming her. She is very likeable, friendly, however will not be able to step in as POTUS. Wake up electorate!

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  18. Chris

    Oh, and all of you, "open-minded liberals," out there...its pretty amazing how hateful you are against others that don't see the world YOUR WAY. That's what I call being open-minded in all its glory... Perhaps more people would respect your ideas if you actually practiced what you preached.

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  19. John in UPST NY


    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  20. Countdown with Keith Olbermann & the Racheal Maddow Show

    The only politician that is more stupid then Sarah Palin is John McCain, for picking Sarah Palin.

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  21. Kasey

    This is a prime example of why McCain/Palin will not get the White House. SHE IS WRONG. She tries to spin it in a way to make her sound like she was to relating to the people. Never admitting guilt for being WRONG. Then slams Obama for not admitting he was wrong about the surge in Iraq (which... he was).

    In my opinion, McCain has lost based solely on the fact that he chose someone who has no business being VP (along with all his other faults) because he thought the voters would be dumb enough to think it was for any reason other than the fact that she was a woman.

    We are not that dumb.

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. ronnie

    Can't we all just get along? Remember, We are all AMERCANS, and no matter what the outcome of this race will be, WE WILL still be the GREATESS NATION on this planet !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. Ian

    Sarah Palin is actually correct on this and CNN and the clueless people who posted earlier are wrong. The Constitution makes the VP the President of the US Senate and she will control the Senate. Lately the VP's have not exercised that authority but it doesn't mean it isn't there. Sarah seems to be the only person running on a ticket who actually understands the Constitution.

    Biden misstated which Constitutional Article even discusses the VP's role. Talk about clueless!

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  24. Ethan

    This woman doesn't understand the United States of America. Our history. Our laws. Our ethics. Nothing. Period. Any other year she might be worth 15 mins of fame, but in this day and age and time of crisis, John McCain has INSULTED us by picking her for a position like VP. It is insulting to me and it would be insulting to our Founding Fathers. People, we MUST vote for Obama. All of us. Kansas, Kentucky, Utah, Texas, New York, California, Colorado. We must all join together and reject this dangerous absurdity and give Barack Obama the landslide mandate that real leadership deserves. America is the greatest country on Earth by far. Let's start acting like it. And I'm talking to you Conservatives. No hating on ya, I'm over that. Just please do the right thing and vote for Obama regardless of what your neighbors or political party thinks. Do it for YOU.

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  25. Teresa

    Emotions aside, Just watching this circus shows how much more level headed and uniting Barack Obama is.

    It seems the only thing Gov. Palin needs to do to hurt the McCain campaign is to keep doing what she is doing. I watch the republican pundits defend her positions and it astounds me that they think we the people can't see through it. She obviously needs way more training and experience fort he job she is going for. Socialism, communism, terrorist...???? what???? Lets talk real issues here not scare tactics that divide the country. Please, Independents out there, you must see through this!

    I reacted to Bidens comment on testing the president as what it was, and then we hear from Palin and others that the international community will be testing ONLY Obama. Ridiciulous. Do they really think we are brainless?

    October 22, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49