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. flabbergasted

    Moderator, why do you purge my comment? I simply state directly in a non-inflammatory way that she is correct and that it is extremely disturbing that most of the posts on this thread do not know that. I also suggest that folks here quietly read the first two Articles of the Constitution and also watch C-SPAN coverage of the Senate session when the VP is in the Chair acting in their role as "President of the Senate."

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  2. Judy Zukoski, Barnesville, PA

    In reaction to the "Cosmos" person's comments......You've been posting your "Sarah so lovely , Sarah so clever" comments for months now. I DO suspect you are posting this dribble for comic relief, but just in case you're not, here's a question for you.

    Do you have ANY idea what ONE of McCain's or Palin's beliefs are on an issue of national importance? If so, please tell us and show us you have several functioning brain cells in your head. If not, kindly just go away to Alaska along with your "so lovely" Sarah. Sounds like you'd love that!

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. Wise White Guy

    Ever wonder why she gets so many people at her rally's compared to what McCain gets on his own? Ever wonder why people slow down to look at a train wreck? Yup! You could take all of the intellect at one of her rallys and combine it to make a manager at McDonalds.....maybe.

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. James

    The old saying ( Dumber then a can of rocks ) comes to mind.

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    to bob in spokane...how exactly is that liberal bias???? it's a direct quote from an idiot that could very well be running this country! open your eyes!

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  6. C Spurgeon

    Go back to Alaska Sarah and keep the new clothes.

    October 22, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  7. joe

    With Sarah Palin as John MCcain running mate, I hope that many Republicans quietly vote for Obama to prevent their party and the US from further embarrasment to the international community.

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  8. Eric - Pittsburgh

    Ummm.. So did Biden at the VP debate. He said during the debate on his rant about Cheney that Article I of the Constitution covers the executive Branch (it is Article II).

    More importantly, the notion that the vice president can preside over the Senate only when there is a tie vote is simply wrong. Nor is it true that the only legislative involvement the vice president has is to break tie votes. The vice president is the president of the Senate, where he interprets the rules and can only be overridden by a vote of 60 senators.

    Where is the outrage over Biden not understanding what vice presidents do?

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. IK

    She does not even know the function of a VP and she's running. This shows the kind of outdated and erratic judgement John McCain has.

    Sarah Palin is a disgrace.. Always wagging her tongue and saying trash

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. Jim from Middletown, CT

    And she answered the question by using her third grade mentality. Good Lord, will this woman ever go away? She is utterly clueless.

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. LM

    Let her talk more, have a fun!

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  12. Nan

    If Sarah Palin ever said anything of substance, she might actually show signs of intelligence.

    See my blog: sayitnow.wordpress.com for my thoughts on Sarah and the reason she agreed to accept the vice presidential position.

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. John

    Once again...liberal media slamming someone who said pretty much what the Democrat said. They sure didn't jump on Biden for saying the same thing. Will the media apologize if they force the Messiah on an unsuspecting public with their poor reporting? They have really thrown fair and honest out the window on this campaign, haven't they?

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. Corey

    They say she explained it so as a third-grader could understand.

    More like a third-grader explaining it to a third-grader.

    She's an absolute idiot...

    Senator McCain, what are you doing to us?

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. Someone call Bozo the Clown

    Is this the part where the Clowns come rolling out of the Volkswagon?

    October 22, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. Stephen in Bedford, TX

    What is going on with the republican party??? They've got a moron as the VP, they have a wacko McCarthy era congresswoman from Minnesota who wants to bring back HUAC to hunt down other members of congress who harbor "anti-American" sentiment and they have a congressman from North Carolina who says liberals hate real Americans.
    At Palin's rallys they have people calling Senator Obama a terrorist and traitor. Their conservative AM radio surrogates keep telling people that Senator Obama is a Muslim.


    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. Dawn Lancaster

    how can the republicans standards be so low? lower than George's intelligence, this is really, really, really low....

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  18. SoCal

    Sarah, how about shutting your mouth and go for some more fancy shopping, huh?

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. wastedresources

    The vice president is the president of the senate. It is true that the vice president casts no vote unless it is to break a tie.
    While the vice president does not traditionally use the position to support his/her agenda, there is precedent of the vice president taking a more active role in the senate. Today the vice president's role in the senate is viewed as a mere check and balance figure to round out the three branches of the U.S. government. Mr. Ritchie is saying that the vice president is a ceremonial position which is not enitrely true. If the vice president chooses to take a more active role in communicating with senators on the senate floor, it is certainly within their bounds.

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  20. Country first

    Forgive that dummy Sarah Palin because she does not know what a VP role is. She charges the state of Alaska for plane ticket for her and her kids' personal plane ticket that was not state business. She is not trustworthy and she cannot trust her with all the money that we have in Washington. She will still all the money that we have to buy her own personal mansion.

    When you go out there to vote you better pay good attention and double check your vote before you summit it. In some ste if not all the republicans fix the machine up. If you vote straight democratic they fix the machine so your presidential vote go for McCain intead of Barack. So you might think you vote for Barack and the machine was fix and it goes the other way. So pay good attention to make sure your presidential vote goes to your choosing candidate. These are disgusting tactics that the republicans are using right now in some part of Texas and may be nationwide. We need fair and free election so rigging these machines is nothing but disgusting tactics. Also when you go to the polling place no political T-shirt because they will turn you away.

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  21. Dee

    Well this is about the FOURTH time she has not known the role of the VP..you would think by now someone in the campaign would have made the flash cards for her to remember....

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  22. NY




    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  23. yaneyra from California

    hahahaha!!! you all people in this blog are so funy!!

    She is not getting my vote!!

    I voted OBAMA already!!!

    OMG!! She is so, so, so STUPID!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  24. Joel Miller

    During the debate Palin said she supported Dick Cheney's view of the Vice Presidency as not being part of the executive branch and yesterday she said that if elected she would be in the White House. She's both confused about the Constitution's definition of the VP role and may have some serious delusions of grandeur on top of it.

    Time to send Palin packing.

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  25. Arizona Dem

    We got to watch out for her if she is VP. Looks like she is looking for power where she can get it.

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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