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. Dj

    McCain says he's been tested. When? His claim is that he was tested when JFK was dealing with the Cuban missile crisis. I have news for him... being a soldier waiting on orders is not being tested for judgement – PRESIDENTIAL JUDGEMENT.

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

    This just goes to show how she would try to implement her own constitutioanal laws. She is clearly not qualified to be VP. nor is her running mate qualified to be POTUS given the nature of his schizophrenic campaign and gamble of a VP pick of the Alaskan governor. Both have shown that they could care less about the American people and they would say and do anything to get elected. AMERICA – WAKE UP AND SAY NO TO 4 MORE YEARS OF BUSH POLICIES – YOUR JOBS,SAVINGS AND RETIREMENTS DEPEND ON IT.

    BO/JB 08-12

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. Anne E.

    this woman is beyond a JOKE.
    and now $150K FOR A WARDROBE??? Professor Higgins fared better with Eliza Doolittle!
    this makes a $400 haircut look like chump change.
    and let's not forget how, for the entire Clinton administration, we had to hear about HIS haircut on a plane on a tarmac at LAX!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  4. lbv

    Everytime Palin speaks without a script she shows how below average her knowledge on government and policy really is. I'll bet the "Maverick" from Arizona now wishes he hadn't been so impulsive and had taken the time to vet her properly.

    Even her $2500 designer outfits can't make her look smart...

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  5. Steve

    It has become quite clear in this presidential race that John McCain,s choice of Sarah Palin has no doubt been an embarrasment for him,whether he or anybody for that matter wishes to believe so.Whether it's her unwitted sarcasm of Senator Obama,or her own lack of understanding of how our government functions,it all makes it much more easier for any undecided to see that Senator McCain,s judgement has almost certainly been very suspect.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. Vincent, Great Lakes, Illinois

    "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."


    Sorry, not buying it. Lying to Adults is one thing as most can see through it but to lie to children about the V.P roll in our government?

    That's a no-no.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. Joel

    Is Obama Brainless; no.

    TOTALLY inexperienced, YES.

    What experience does Obama really have to be President of the United States?

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. Simmy

    Palin = Out of touch-Irrelevant
    Obama = President
    Biden = Vice President who knows his role!

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Mary

    Give me a break. Why don't you tell the whole story and not take it out of context. She was told the question was from a 2/3rd grader and she was talking to him, but of course you spin it. She loves children and family and all you liberals hate that! It makes you go nuts!!! You don't even think like most of middle America. Barrack is the manchurian candidate and CNN and the rest of the wacky liberals can applaud yourself for fooling the rest of the loons who listen to your bias reporting!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. John

    If McCain wins this young lady could be the President a frightening prospect in anyone's book.

    George Bush called the Constitution just a piece of paper Palin is screwing the paper up and throwing it into the waste paper bin.

    Good grief Mrs Palin read the US. constitution instead of reading the Alaska Independence Party Manifesto.

    Obama Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  11. Dwayne - OH

    What an idiot!

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

    Unfortunately the spokeswoman's explanation doesn't hold up since Palin said the exact same thing during the VP debate (go back and check the tape) sooooooo how many 3rd graders were watching that eh?

    The choice of Palin as a running mate by McCain is so cynical and sad – it should be a red flag to voters since it shows either his judgement is quite impaired or his advisors are wackydoodle.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  13. Republican Parrot

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

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


    Rev Wright,Rev Wright....squawk,squawk

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. li

    Uniter? Our country is heavily divided over both these candidates. They each claim to be uniters (same thing Bush claimed). BO is not a uniter and neither is McC with his VP pick. Enough with the talking points – be honest. Nothing wrong with saying your side is better if you believe that.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. proud army and navy mom

    You think Palin clothes are expensive look at how much was spent on makeup for her and mcwar:

    McCain's September payments of $8,672.55 to "American Idol" make-up artist Tifanie White, who has also worked on the reality dance show "So You Think You Can Dance," are a drop in the bucket on the campaign's beautification front compared to the GOP vice presidential nominee.

    The Sleuth has learned that Palin's high-paid traveling make-up artist is Amy Strozzi, who was nominated for an Emmy Award for her work as head of makeup on "So You Think You Can Dance." Strozzi was paid $13,200 by the McCain-Palin campaign last month alone, according to the campaign's latest financial disclosure report filed this week.

    That's $4,527.45 more than McCain's make-up artist made last month. And as we mentioned yesterday in our exclusive on McCain's make-up artist, the 72-year-old Arizona senator, who has prominent scars from battling cancer, requires more work than does the more naturally telegenic 44-year-old Palin.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. wwf

    I am sure that will be blamed on a "gottcha question". I feel real safe that she has to answer questions to the level of a 3rd grader. Wow.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. TyWebb

    Hey, "john" and "John in UPST NY", stop trying to protect this nut. Biden had it right and Palin is a power-monger – a dumb one at that.

    October 22, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Florence, SC

    Sarah Palin is dumb as a box of rocks.

    I'm John McCain and i approve this message !

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. Stand Alone in AR

    Mrs. Want to Be the Boss and Spend Your State's People Hard Working Money on your Kids when ya'll travel SARAH PALIN is just DUMB.


    Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. Edward

    It took her five colleges to earn her Bachelors Degree. What really did you folks expect?

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  21. will

    The bias is just ridiculous!!!! Joe Doh in the VP debate quoted Article I of the Constitution regarding defining VP responsibilities, sorry Joe it's Article II. And I also didn't see on CNN reporting in the deabate Joe Doh referencing his friends at his local bar in Scranton, but that bar went out of business 15 years ago.

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  22. Jon Hill

    To International Standards Engineer

    Your analysis is faulty in that it is incomplete. You forget that by lowering the tax rate for employees who make under say 100k (i.e. a whole lot of us) you also lower the overall costs of the employee to the employer. Why? The employer doesn't have to pay as much overall in taxes and wages to get the employee the same acceptable living wage. Further, the social security match of approximately 7% is lower because the overall package cost is lower.

    In short, you have a knee jerk reaction to a multi-variable equation which you haven't really figured out. Your just buying the Republican line......again.

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  23. Toni


    Her bad

    Even i knew that. Funny how she tried to brush it off as a preschool answer and she STILL didnt know it

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  24. Mike in Chicago

    Typical White Person – "And you guys are ragging on Palin for answering a third grader's question with a response at the third grade level?"

    I'm all for answering a question so that a third grader could understand. However, 1) her answer WAS NOT CORRECT, and 2) she has incorrectly answered the question before.

    After a certain time you have to wonder if she doesn't really know what her job would be or if she just isn't smart enough to figure out. So yeah, to be running for "next-in-line to be President" that is a tad bit concerning and indicative of other similar comments that she has made.

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  25. Hillary Supporter

    Enough with all these gotcha questions. How dare the liberal media ask a VP candidate what it is a VP does.

    October 22, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
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