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. American in Canada

    Come on be nice to a lady.


    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. Glenn

    Hey International Standards Engineer...

    Does your $100M company report profits on a personal income tax return? The tax increases you are talking about are on personal revenue over $250,000, not on corporate revenue. So the CEO of your company may not be able to buy as many luxury cars as he would like with Obama as president, but the employees of the company will have more money to spend to buy the company's products.

    Nice work on the numbers but your point is flawed.

    October 22, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. Andrew

    Nice reframe, but not quite. Palin reasons at a third grade level, and understands some concepts only at a third grade level. This is very apparent virtually every time she opens her mouth. I was once willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on overall ability to be VP, all the while totally disagreeing with her wretched beliefs and values. However, these last few months have proven to me and millions of Americans that not only is she unqualified to be VP, but governor and perhaps even a politician at all.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. Olivia

    Palin will make a great vp.
    I thought Biden was the one who misspoke at the vp debate on the official role of the vp. So who's clueless, eh? Probably sat on his butt for too long in the senate.
    And.....for those that criticized the clothing allowance for Palin......how do you know michelle didn't get a similar deal from campaign funds or the DNC? One thing for sure...if she did one of her designer outfits would probably cost as much as the total cost of Palin's duds.
    Besides......unlike others, Palin is beautiful and wears her clothes really well.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Joe from Boston

    Get a life!

    Her response was appropriate for a third grade level of comprehension. The Constitution does not prohibit her from doing what she said; it only indicates what she must do. It does give an indication of the gregariousness of her personality and her dealings with people.

    Relative to the heartbeat away crowd. The country would easily survive Palin and probably benefit – I'm not so sure about about Biden – he's a walking disaster!!

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. mike

    Why couldn't CNN run a fair story? The Vice President of the United States is President of the Senate. Thats whats in the constitution. Palin is right. CNN has every obama clown thinking she was wrong – this is how the media influences elections by distorting the facts.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. Jeff

    She's read one too many Dick Cheney articles.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Wake-up America

    To International Standards Engineer:

    Your analysis is very misleading and flawed just like all the Greedy Corporations and Republicans analysis of the Tax Plans. You forget the most import issue that caused the Economy melt down. KEY WORD: GREED!!!! The only thing these corporations are worried about is profits, PERIOD.

    Example: It doesn’t matter what the tax rate is, whether it is 36% or 26% if these corporations can get cheaper labor oversees than in the US because we have a higher standard of living they will. You can count on that, no loyalty, just GREED!! Senator Obama’s Tax Plan has incentives for Corporations to decrease the tax burden in exchange for keeping and growing jobs. McCain’s does nothing except what we have seen for the last 8 years. WAKE UP trickle down Economics does NOT WORK in the day and age of Corporate GREED.

    If American’s really want to keep their jobs just look closely at what has been happening. The Taxes on Corporations are NOT the problem, GREED is the problem.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. AZ Ghost Writer

    Also...it is pretty overwhelming to read many of these comments...it is VERY obvious the majority of these commentors do NOT have either the intelect or desire to find out the facts themselves. Try to understand, that YOU need to do the work, not sit back and let someone else do what you are responsible to do. either go back to school or take a motivational course...do something other than sit back and be spoon fed – like a small child.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. TH

    If she can't even explain to a 3rd grader the role of the vice president, then god help us all.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. Miranda

    I am so appalled that a woman that is running for Vice President of the United States is unable to answer a third grade question. Obviously, she is not smarter than a third grader (I think that only wins her about $25,000). What is more appalling is that people attempt to defend her and McCain, when in the last debate, McCain commented that he would have people returning from Iraq be teachers. Last I checked, you need a Bachelor's degree to teach, and even more specialized education to teach younger students. Now, eventually the economy will work out, and eventually people will have jobs, and eventually everything will be fine, but HELLO – how about our future leaders, our students, our children, the people that will take care of us when we are McCain's age. Now, if I am not mistaken, the President and the Vice President are HUGE role models to young Americans...I am absolutely disgusted that McCain and Palin feel they are suited for that job with the recent comments they have made.

    If all McCain and Palin have as a response to their mishaps is "Obama and Biden do it too" (as a third grader would) then clearly they are not ready to run this country, and they are certainly not going to win my vote. I hope you think about it – this is our future people!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  12. kara

    I love watching this woman implode on herself. Freaking hilarious.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. C Spurgeon

    Go back to Alaska Sarah and keep the new clothes.

    All the hate mobongering on both sides need to stop. The only way we will ever move forward is bipartisanship, not attack. Speak your opinion but don't be so nasty about it.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  14. Lois Blasenheim

    She responded to a third grader according to her spokesperson – the truth is that she has less knowledge than a third grader about the U.S. constitution.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  15. Doug, Pittsburgh, PA

    Colin Powell was so right about the Palin Pick.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  16. SoCal

    Her approval rating in Alaska was 80% in August, then 68% in September. I can't wait to see what it is now...

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  17. It's over

    They've been digging this hole for a long time. Palin thinks that she's in a beauty pageant. This is indicative of the boneheaded answers given by some of the contestants.

    Vote for Barack Obama / Joe Biden.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. Jones

    Joe the Plagerist Biden tells the world that the US can expect to be attacked within 6 months of an Obama presidency, and you're saying Palen is a moron? You people are delusional. Your glorious VP candidate says Obama will be "tested" with a major international conflict and you are all ignoring it (including CNN). Liberalism is indeed a mental disorder.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  19. Supporter of the Constitution

    I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but I'm not certain how much faith you can put in this article. The Executive branch's power are outlined in ARTICLE II of the Constitution, not Article I like this entry states. If the writer can't even get that right, what else in the article has he gotten wrong?

    Biden made the same mistake in the VP debate. That was particularly scary since Article I outlines the duties of the Legislative Branch, the branch Biden was in for the past 30+ years. If this is any indication about how much he reads his Constitution, Americans should beware.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  20. sandee in Portland

    God, I can't stand this lying, stupid, whiney voiced woman. After watching the interview on CNN, I have come to the conclusion that I could never vote for any ticket with her on it. It's a sad day in history when both candidates on the same ticket have abused their power and have no ethics.

    The republicans are no longer the party I belonged to for over 50 years. They are not fiscally conservative. They are now a party of right wing evangelical extremists who would like to get rid of the separation of church and state.

    You know McCain is against earmarks, yet Palin's requested more earmarks per capita than any other state. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against earmark entirely. Most, but not all, of them are for the good of the country, like infrastructure which provides jobs.

    P.S. – I wonder if Ferraro got her clothes paid for when she was running as a V.P. candidate. Bet not.

    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. South Jersey

    don't forget!

    she was 'watchin' Biden give senatorial speeches

    since she was 'LIKE IN THE 2nd GRADE !!!!

    so SHE'S the BOSS about running the senate


    October 22, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  22. Dave

    Wow... she's applying for a job and she doesn't even know what that job is. What's next? "I want to be an astronaut so I can fight fires!"

    October 22, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  23. Republican for Obama

    Palin is a disgrace.
    $150,000 Clothing Allowance
    Took family on trips and charged the taxpayers over $21,000
    Charged the taxpayers for meals while staying in her own home
    You betcha!!! Now that executive experience alright. Kinda like the ENRON executive school of experience!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  24. Tara

    Vote early for Obama/Biden '08!!

    I don't care what she meant to say or who she was trying to get on the level of. I don't want her representing me on the world stage! End all of this madness by voting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Think of your children and grandchildren!!

    October 22, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  25. CincyJim

    Read the constitution. She stated the role. VP presides over the Senate and is the President of the Senate. Not just a tie-break. Biden got it completely wrong during the debate as pointed out on CNN and other fact check sources. If you can read CNN, you should go read actual historical document before spouting hate. You end up looking more ignorant than the woman you're attacking.

    October 22, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
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