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. jadedat51

    Nor do I believe Palin's continued excuses of being misunderstood/misquoted. Any degreed journalism major should have better command of the English (their native) language.

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. jaime in PDX

    Every time Palin speaks I feel that my intelligence is being insulted. They probably think that I do not understand what I read or maybe think that all I need to do is read the headlines and understand everything. Her voice is like fingernails on the chalkboard.

    October 22, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. james in s.c.

    please listen to me carefully!!! i've been treated for schizophernic for many years, i take meds daily, i hate to tell you this sinister palin is crazier then i am!!!!



    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. joe

    give her a break you know it alls.biden said stupid things and no body cares.after this election the only news i am watching is BBC.The media prepped us into supporting the iraq war too.Now they are on to the obama coronation.a guy with no record – a PURE CELEBRITY-the CHOSEN one. News media is pimping for obama.shame on you.You finished hillarys campaign too.go mccain.HILLARY 2012

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. Dan, Mpls

    To International Systems Engineer,

    I don't think you get it. We don't care about trickle down economics. Get this, jobs can be created from bottom up. If Joe the Plumber gets more money because of reduced tax,l he will spend it. When peoplem spend more, businesses like Best Buy would need to supply more products. Best Buy would order more. etc etc.

    Get it. Moron like you think the only way to griow the economy is to give big business the money. Didn't you study Economic in school?

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  6. Kristin

    How could Sarah Palin explain this to a third grader when she isn't even smarter than a fifth grader?

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Proud American in a Big City

    They should have stuck with the policy of not letting her open her mouth.

    I will be voting for THAT ONE today.

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. Orlando

    Palin is Costing John McCain dearly in this election. This is the price you Pay when don't think ahead.

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. jeremy

    shocking that she has no clue what the VP's role is. the GOP has been ignoring the constitution for years, why would she know?

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Hunters and grad students for Obama

    In a way a third grader can understand? Or, a way that Palin can understand? The distinction between the two is fading as fast as the wolf population in Alaska.

    I hunt, but I am NOT for shooting wolfs from helicopters so that outfitters can keep up there business with elk and caribou hunting trips. She is a little too extreme for me; that is why I have chosen to go with Obama. Furthermore, I am a grad student and Obama believes in more education and a focus on the sciences for America's bright upcoming youth.

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. gerry astaphan

    She is an ignorant separatist who wants to be our VP and possbily our P.

    I donlt know who frightens me more, Palin or the man who chose her as his running mate.

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. Time 4 Change

    Democrat for McCain:

    What an idiot. You attack Obama's intelligence and believe "Mrs Neigbors with Russia" would be a good president?

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Debbie

    Instead of going on SNL she should have been home doing studying.

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. saveyourrhetoric

    Go check the transcript for the V-P debate. You liberals will find Palin gave a much better account of the role of the V-P than did Biden. In fact, he was just wrong. But you don't care anyway, do you?

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. Sam the Butcher

    Boy does she look....almost CELEBRITY-like in that nice red leather jacket. Wonder if that was from Saks or Niemann Marcus?? Regardless sounds like it was purchased in one of them areas that aren't so pro-American.
    Hockey moms are upgrading their wardrobes these days during economic crisis dontcha know????

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  16. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    This shows just how clueless she really is...Dumber than a bucket of hair. Sure shows just how desparate they are! Every thing they try, all the put downs they throw out, Socialist, Joe the plumber, Joe Six pack, EtAl shown that all they are doing is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic
    Obama/Biden 08/12

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  17. Chris


    OBAMA UNITING? What planet are you ON? Right, he's united the liberal sector on the democratic front. Other than that, he's just as polarizing as Bush across the board.

    Wake up.

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. Kathryn

    Just watch. Tomorrow she'll say it was just a joke.

    If she's so smart, how come they never catch it on camera?

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. Republicrat

    Alright all I took from this is that she didn't know and is now trying to cover it up by saying that she was talking to us all like we're idiots.

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  20. LK from Michigan

    This just gets better and better...how can any voter still be undecided at this point?? What more do you need to hear?? Everytime this clueless beauty queen opens her mouth she proves what a complete buffoon she is–it is getting painful to watch. Sometimes I actually feel BADLY for McCain!

    OBAMA / BIDEN '08 !!

    October 22, 2008 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  21. JT

    Guys, guys...it's obvious this "third-grader" is part of the liberal media and is doing nothing more than playing gotcha journalism.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. Frank G

    Everyone Relax.
    She will soon have her own show "Live from Alaska" on FoxNewsChannel as a lead in to Mike Huckabee.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |

    EVERYONE VOTE EARLY – The lines are only going to get longer by the minute, after listening to Sarah Palin or not listening to her. This statement is exactly why the McCAIN Campaign has kept her from REAL press conferences. We have to stop this woman from DIVIDING THIS COUNTRY and segregating us into REAL AMERICANS and ANTI-AMERICANS. When you apply for a JOB, you should know what the responsibilities of the job calls for. After three strikes with the same question...YOU'RE OUT!

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  24. gb

    just keep talking Sarah,
    keep talking.....

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  25. miken

    This isn’t rocket science. The Constitution on this point is very straightforward: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.”

    I f you look back at the VP debate you will see that it was Biden who got it wrong on the question of the VP role. Palin had it right. So please obamamaniacs, please keep an open mind and do your research and you will see the GOP has the better, more experienced team.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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