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. Justin

    I think McCain just has to face it – Palin was a bad choice. Putting her in a position of power in our government would be like handing the keys of a Ferrari to a ten-year-old - dangerous and dumb.

    I believe in basic common sense, and I don't think you need a fancy degree or a long resume to be smart. Palin's problem is she's arrogant. She claims to know and understand things she clearly doesn't. That's too much like our current President – the 'decider' – than I'm comfortable with.

    October 22, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  2. Marc

    Where were the public lashings when Biden said:

    Article I defines the Vice President's executive duties and that the VP is only President of the Senate when he or she is breaking ties.


    October 22, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  3. She should be blonde!!

    Palin's spokespeople should be tired of trying to explain things she does and says. I guess they flip a coin and say, "Okay, whose turn is it to defend her today?"

    By the way, did she withdraw her children from school? They're on the campaign stump like it's DisneyWorld in the various cities!!

    October 22, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. voter


    I don't know where you get the information that Biden created a gaffe. If you google the statement from Biden, his last statement was that Obama has a spine of steel and would be able to handle a crisis. the media conveniately left out the last statement. Palin discussing how Obama is not qualified when she has no experience and does not know the role of the vp. please.

    October 22, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. Art from Chicago

    "She was explaining in terms a third-grader could understand ..."

    Guess she's not qualified to be a third-grade teacher either.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. Ken, Republican Voting for Obama

    This is the 5th time she has made a mistake on this role, pathetic.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  7. Joe the Professor

    Time out. I just read that part of the U.S. Constitution (again) and it turns out that Gov. Palin is RIGHT! Look at Article 1 – you know, the article that applies to the LEGISLATIVE BRANCH? I think somebody owes her an apology. Who's first?

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  8. Emma

    To that Biden comment about 6 months, look at other administrations. Cuban Missile, 9/11–>He was stating a fact about presidents being tested at the beginning of their administration.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. DB - Colorado

    Palin is becoming publically more radical and saying pretty much anything to close the gap in the polls. Unfortunately, she is catering to the uneducated and undecided hate-mongers in this country that are fearful of imaginary terrorists and losing control of power. She continues to out do herself with the hate she spews. Very scary.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  10. Independent

    Sarah Palin was not explaining to a third grader in elementary language. She was explaining it based on her knowledge of policy which is at third grade level. After all, she had to ask "exactly what does a VP do?". Apparently Palin also has lack of short-term memory retention, or God forbid, if elected, she plans to take over the senate.



    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. ahday

    Whatelse do we need? What other clue/ hand writing on the wall do we need to know this is a train wreck waiting to happen?
    One gaffe after the other.....shows she ( Palin) can not even deal with third graders.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  12. mgo

    As a third grader, I knew the branches, the titles, and the roles of our government. This underestimation of children is what keeps those in the American public school system less educated than their peers in other countries.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  13. Robin

    She is not completely wrong here. Again when it comes to Palin you mince words. Nothing made of Biden thought and his warning to America that we are heading towards a major disaster with Obama. Oh, I forgot that's just Joe being Joe. CNN you are becoming more and more like the 3 major networks. Palin gave a good interview and you pick this out of the whole thing.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  14. Amanda Hussein Smith

    How dare she insult a third grader's intelligence like that!

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  15. Robert

    Palin should spend less time shoppin' for new clothes and gettin' her hair all purdy (with RNC $$) and more time readin' that Constitution thingy.

    October 22, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  16. ones

    Rox – Give it up. The Savior and his Deciples have spent $437,000 on food and $21.5 MILLION on polling! Why do they need to conduct polls? They tayloring their pitch to the poll numbers?

    It's moot anyway. Obama's not even a natural born citizen. Google Berg v. Obama. Youo libs must be so proud of your fraud candidate.

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  17. Rita


    Until last night I was undecided but between the State of Alaska paying for trips that her children were NOT requested to show up for and the $150k shopping spree....I am done!

    Although she did not break any laws in this day for me it is a question of ethics I think she has more the same. Stick a fork in me I am done!

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. Waaaah!

    Hey, engineer, 8% profit is more than most make in the stock market! Not to mention alot of 'US' companies have been shipping jobs overseas for years so they can justify higher board officer pay...

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  19. Shawn Killackey, Mundelein, IL

    Again Palin shows that she doesn't have a clue on how to be VP much less President if anything ever happened to McCain. Bottom line...Palin is not ready!!

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. Laura

    International Standards Engineer October 22nd, 2008 12:37 pm ET

    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

    hhmmmm don't sound like a simple blogger to me .......... ooohh mccain has his people doing this now ..... ouch.

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  21. afra

    I wonder how such a dumb person got to be Governor of a whole state. Has she lowered the bar for governors or is it just for that state? I really wonder.

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  22. GBurns

    Palin would not qualify to be on "Are You Smarter than A 5th Grader?" let alone be potentially the president of the United States. I wish real conservatives would actually put America first and not vote for Palin/McCain. McCain had my vote until that choice. I've never voted for a Democrat for President but I will this year.

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  23. Debbie

    So, third graders wouldn't understand that the Vice President is a tie-breaker? No, she was trying to *lie* to a third grader! The woman has no qualms about who she lies to...

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Republican Parrot

    Liberal bias, liberal bias...... squawk,squawk

    Ayers terrorist, Ayers terorrist........ squawk squawk

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. Dennis

    What an albatross.

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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