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. Morons

    "GOD will make the right choice in this election" – Sarah Palin

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. nicholas stewart

    Sarah Palin has repeatedly answered questions with controversial answers and it is left up to her campaign advisers to clean up the mess. Her spokesperson said that she was answering the question in a way that a third grader would understand but the facts are shes not telling the facts. It doesnt matter if shes answering a third grader's question or the presidents question, the answer is misleading. Sarah Palin is simply in over her head and it is easily shown when she speaks.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Dax


    You need to stay off the liberal Medial and stick to radio. Rush is probably saying what you'd like to hear right now.

    You neocons are like machines, if the truth isn't to your liking then it must be liberal bias. Get over it and get off the net. You know it's liberal!

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  4. Anne E.

    NOTE TO ETHAN: We here in Utah, hotbed of the red states, where we Dems are told our votes don't count anyway, are working our hardest to make a dent this year and show that we CAN be heard! Kudos to you for getting out the vote!

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. Charles of Georgia

    Just giving enough time, it will show her shallow intelligence, konwledge, and incompetent judgement. Not suprising to me at all.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. Jeff

    I sounds like another 3rd grader's answer to the question.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. clysly

    Yikes! There she goes again. Does she even know what the capital of the United States is?

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. Rob

    The key is in the story. Palin geared her answer to a 3rd grader. Her problem is she didn't dumb it down way further so an Obamaholic could understand it.

    Obama supporter: "I support Obama"
    Normal Person: "OK then, I'll talk slower."

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. A smart woman NOT Sarah Palin

    She can't help but get confused if she has to speak through the elitist third grade media filter.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  10. Pam

    This woman is just pathetic. It's time the media fully uncover and expose her poor record as governor and put it front page. She abused her power in the firing of Walt Monegan, used taxpayer dollars to take her children and husband on official business when they had no right being there, and took "per diem" monies for staying in her own home. Sarah, if you wanted the job of governor, then you move to the governor's mansion, your kids stay at home with Daddy or a nanny when you have to go on the road, and you don't use your office to abuse power because you don't like your ex-brother in law. Get it??? The people of Alaska need to boot her out of office after we kick her behind back to Alaska. She is NOT qualified to be mayor of dinky town much less VP or god forbid (yes him) President of the US.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. nk

    At times I almost feel sorry for her, and then I think of the monumental problems facing the country with our financial systems in collapse, jobs in jeopardy and the overall decline of our standard of living, and I come to my senses and realize we just cannot afford to have someone in the top echelons of Government, who is clearly over their head, being responsible for getting things back on track. Her selection as VP, when there are so many other truly qualified people, causes me to question Senator McCain's judgement.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. Edward

    Sarah, please, please go back to Alaska. We have heard just about enough out of you. While your at it take John on a hunting trip................for bear.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |

    VOTE EARLY- VOTE BY MAIL – JUST VOTE NOW and stop the Sarah Palins and The Michelle Bachmanns of this great country. GO VOTE NOW- IF YOU CAN! These people are scary!

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. SoCal

    Whatever she says, I think her role as VP in a McCain's administration would be pretty clear: wink at the camera while saying "I betcha!"

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  15. Patty Vashon

    Time for the barbie doll, with $150,000. 00 wardrobe to go back to Alaska. We need depth of understanding in a time of deepening financial crisis. This saga is almost laughable if it were not so pathetic.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  16. Republican For Obama

    Governor Palin,,,,,,,Please just go back where you came from.

    October 22, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. Jackie

    How in the heck can this woman be running for Vice President and she doesn't even know what the heck she is talking about. Now if she were running for President of the Bash Barack Obama Club then she is totally qualified, because that all she is doing is bashing Sen. Obama. When is she going to start addressing some of the issues that are really concerning the American people? And enough with Joe the plumber. He does not represent the disenfranchised people of America. How many times is Sen. McCain going to cram this man down our throats?

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  18. jerry in suffolk va.

    This lady is a WHOOPI CUSHION!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  19. obama central (a.k.a. sheep herding)

    More in line than Biden's comments during the VP debate.

    Oh, since it's Biden no one on here remembers. Sorry forgot where I was.

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. DavidUSA

    Unfortunately Ms Palin is unable to even explain herself on a third grade level.

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. Eugene

    So...is this who we're gonna call at 3AM in the morning?......

    Obama/ Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  22. jsmith

    She doesnt even know what the roles are for the position she is running for!

    Clearly, she doesnt know what she is doing.

    McCain only chose her to appeal to the former Hillary Clinton fanatics, but Palin doesnt have anything on her!


    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  23. SoCal

    She must be a heck of a moose hunter!

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. Executive_Leadership

    The good thing is Palin, as a governor, has more executive leadership experience than both Biden and Obama combined, especially when it comes to an international crisis during the next 6 months. Has Obama been tested, with nay real experiences or life-time government-achievements??

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. Teresa

    oh and lets not forget the trooper gate scandal. I remember reading that the the guy who ended up getting fired was asked to see the Governor. He went anticipating to meet with the Governor and who did he end up meeting with? The Governor's HUSBAND, Todd. That just did not settle well with me.

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
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