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. Young Republicans for OBAMA






    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  2. Jerry

    Actually we need to give both of them more rope so they can continue to hang themselves.

    We don't need to do anything more.

    October 22, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  3. Walt

    Can you spell "DONE"?

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. Josh Maloney, Oakland, CA

    This goes to show that Sarah Palin is Dick Cheney with a hair bun.

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. SoCal

    Her future role as VP in a McCain's administration is pretty clear: wink at the camera while saying "I betcha!"

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  6. Donna in Michigan

    Please, do we really want a person with a third grade mentality in charge of our country?!
    VOTE! Obama/Biden 08!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  7. Hana

    After spending 150K in outfits, may be GOP can invest in some good quality duct tape to place on Palin's mouth.

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. Obama is a questionable candidate

    Ethan See Pat's comments below. Then go read the constitution.
    Obviously you don't have a clue on what you are talking about.

    Thanks Pat!

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Anthony Smith

    She continues to amaze me with her foot in mouth disease. Palin has no grasp of reality or politics. Electing McCain/Palin would be comparable to electing the Three Stooges...McCain, Palin, and Palin's hubby!

    Wildwood Crest, NJ

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. John in UPST NY


    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. informed voter

    Guys guys! Be kind. It's the vicious, elitist , third grade media filter that is to blame.

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. Lizzy

    This Lady scares the living day lights out of me.... SHE IS NOT LEADERSHIP MATERIAL...

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  13. JonJon

    ooooh she is so dumb! She wasn't speaking to a 3rd grader nor are they usually her audience. She is so pathetic.

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. Shortman

    I would not worry about her doing her job (VP) as she controls the senate.As stated many times while she was Alaska Gov, her husband made all the decisions..She would only have the title....If the RNC spent $150,000 on clothes for her durning the primary,if elected I do not think there is or will be enough money left in the treasury for them to clothes her and her family..What she really needs is a course on what the duties are for VP....The RNC should take some of the clothes money and send her to college...I almost forgot she went to six collegs in five year.

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  15. j

    Joe Biden has been able to give the correct description for the VP role. You'd think that someone in the McCain campaign would educate Palin and bring her up to speed.

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. Chris

    CNN keeps pushing the liberal agenda. They have brought this out twice now. Why don't you report on how the political insider Joe Biden, who has been a member of the Senate for 30+ years, has mistated the role of the VP numerous times as well. Obama will be our next president because the media is praising him and rediculing his opponent. I thought media was supposed to be unbiased??

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. Yeah

    Wow, just wow. Lack of knowledge from a VP canidate at such a level leaves me speechless. This woman has the potential to be very damaging to our beloved country. As much as I love and admire John McCain, I just cannot vote for him with her on the ticket.

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. R. M. Link

    I suspect 3rd graders already know more about the Senate and the role of Vice President than Gov. Palin. Just a hunch....

    October 22, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Moo

    Article 1, section 3 of the US Constitution states, "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided." Article 2 along with other portions list other duties.

    My interpretation of that is that the VP has more than just "tie voting" duties... but I am just a constitutional law scholar.

    Most of you seem to be like a herd of sheep. If it is said on TV or other media, you repeat it over and over again, as if it is accurate.

    Do us all a favor, actually do some research and know what you are talking about before you speak or write.

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. Zane

    And we thought Dan Quayle was stupid......

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. Steve, VA

    I don't understand this. That Sarah Palin as a sitting governor of a State in the "United States of American" cannot give an anwer to what the role of a VP candidate is? That's annoying to me as a Republican. has Sarah heard about our Constitution? A VP to be in charge of Senate and change rules anyhow he or she wants? Where did you read that, Sarah?

    To John McCain and my Republicans, this is embarrasing! We may need to just accept defeat and dump this VP pick. This, among other Sarah Palins ignorance, shows the quality of the vetting process that selected Sarah Palin.

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  22. will

    Funny, I didn't see anything on the ticker from the VP debate when Biden quoted Article I of the constitution referencing VP responsibilities...that would be Article II Joe. I also didn't see anything about his Scranton hangout he was "just at" that closed 10 years ago! Complete double standard in the media!

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. rm


    Wow, Biden gaffed, he went off message. But please email the link to where he said that Obama would be unable to lead, please. You won't, know why? Because he didn't say that. What grade are you in?

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  24. Jennifer

    Can someone please tap Palin on the shoulder and tell her to stop talking??

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  25. DM

    She has been asked this question at least 3 times. The first time, it looked like she honestly didn't know. Since then, I'd guess she's been told the correct answer, but _not_ to even hint at the possibility that she could take over the role of president, i.e., she's probably not allowed to answer correctly.

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
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