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. Karen

    My sixth graders know what the VP does, and most of them are from Mexico and still have a hard time speaking English! We've also done simulations on handling budgets, which is what an executive does, so now they're more qualified than Palin to be VP!
    As we've also worked on negotiating skills, and they're aware we need to be able to talk to both friends and enemies, something Palin hasn't figured out.
    Perhaps she needs to start asking Piper for the answers!

    October 22, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  2. bob

    maybe all of your obama supporter need to need up on the consttution and they will see she is right as to what she said. Just like an Obama support to run their mouths before they check the facts, kind of like their candidate

    October 22, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. jean

    Palin is not even qualified to be a governor, she even does not know what is the constitution, it is a shame for Mccain, I was gonna vote for him, but I changed my mind because of Sarah

    October 22, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Republican for a better Country

    No matter what Sarah Pain says the liberal left as well as the Republican left will have negative comments. It's simply the nature of such peolpe to live life in a negative world expecting the Government to take care of them and provide for them.

    October 22, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. republican voting for democrat

    I really would like to see this woman debate with Hillary.
    Good looks and humor is not enough to run the country

    October 22, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. ren206

    Sarah Palin is a complete idiot, It's obvious she does'nt think before she speaks. If you are a registered voter and you don't get out there and vote and McCain and Palin are elected into office, then don't complain. Please get out and vote , no matter how long the lines are or what the weather is like.

    October 22, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. Thomas

    No comment needed, Welcome President Obama and Vice President Biden!!!, Time to Really be Proud of our Country, for the fist time in (8) years.

    October 22, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Dan

    Dumb as a bag of rocks.

    October 22, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  9. CPW

    Misspeak implies Palin knows what the VP role is...she doesn't.

    October 22, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  10. Indiana Joe

    Sarah Palin is clearly McCain's BIGGEST LIABILITY and tells us about McCain's POOR JUDGMENT. She is the ultimaterepublican tool, another of many stunts from McCain, a political calculation to supposedly bring votes from Hillary supporters (actually their beliefs are the opposite), feminists (even though she's far from the feminist ideology), and those independents who can be easily fooled or some Jerry Springer fans who don't pay attention to details and just see cute faces and are only capable of understanding keywords ("joe six-pack", "maverick", "hockey mom", "he doesn't share our values", "pallin' around", "job creation", "drill baby drill", "REAL American", "socialist", etc). We have seen during the last weeks that she's not, and probably never be, ready to be President or VP. She can't even answer questions that my 14 year old niece can, she barely survived the debate by repeating lines that someone wrote for her, giving non-answers and dodging the questions. Moreover she is already involved in corruption, unethical behavior and abuse of power. We need someone above the average... she's intellectually just alright. We cannot afford a "just alright person" for the hard times ahead. McCain put his political calculations first, not our country! McCAIN SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER, SHAME ON HIM

    BY THE WAY, the McCain/Palin ticket is the first in American history in which both candidates were found to have violated ethics standards before a national election. Interesting huh?

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  11. Hopester

    There are so many people I would like to thank this election year for helping take my independent vote straight Democrat right down the line.I hardly know where to begin. Thank you Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Robyn Hayes, Michelle Bachmann,Cindy McCain, "W" , but most of all the "Maverick" Sarah Palin. You have all worked so hard, job well done! God willing we will get our country back from you snakes in November.

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. Marilyn of AR

    Sarah Palin is a perfect example of "DUMB DORA"

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. Try Google

    seriously – It's been over 2 months since she said she didn't know what a VP actually did. Why didn't she at least Google? If not, God forbid, actually educate herself? This is why she doesn't give interviews

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  14. Joseph IRAQ WAR VET

    I think the Republicans wanted to pick someone like Palin who is just smart enough to fool the dummies in their party

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  15. Lee

    Her spokesperson indicating that she was answering the question so a third grader could understand is trying to, after the fact, make up for P-lie-n not knowing anything. Does this spokesperson not know that a third grader can understand words that are bigger than three or four letters long. If the third grader can understand that the VP would get in there and "lobby" to get the "policies" across, then they don't need to be lied to about the VP being in charge of the senate.

    Again, they make up stuff to cover her axx because she doesn't know anything.

    Why she continues to speak baffles me.

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. riccardo

    palin we already know is very ignorant ........but the problem is ALL the people that back her up and are so happy to vote for her THEY ARE NOT ONLY IGNORANT ....BUT EXTREMELY IRRESPONSIBLE !!!!!!!!!
    its incredible how much we have lost because of republicans administration where little programs in EDUCATION have turned our country in people with no common sense.

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  17. Dan

    Sarah–are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

    Apparently not.

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  18. Mark the tech guy

    Gosh darn it....It's the 3rd Grade "Gotcha" media.

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  19. Lisa from PA

    Is she smarter than a third grader? I think not.

    October 22, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Charlie

    Actually, I think that Obama knows even less about our government. Liberals are just angry, crazy, dumb sheep following a fake messiah. Get over yourselves.

    October 22, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. Daisy

    Her screechy voice and her so called 'foreign policy' will forever be the
    laughing material in American political history.

    October 22, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. Samuel

    Can anyone tell me just I much Senator John McCain regrets for picking Sarah Palin as VP of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?

    I am asking the above question, because Sarah Palin is not a VP candidate for, say, Afghanistan or DR Congo. She is a running mate for a presidential candidate of the USA. Well, this is not right folks. Senator McCain has tainted his image forever no matter what the outcome of the election.

    He can still win the elections, but really, is it country first as he suggests. I do not think so. I have made my choice wisely, please do same.

    October 22, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Roger

    Palin made the same mistake in the debate with Biden and was accurately corrected by Biden. Was Palin not listening, or is she so power hungry?

    Has anyone noticed how Palin suffers from the same character weaknesses that plagued Nixon, thirst for power and the lack of ethical common sense?

    October 22, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. Dave in Illinois

    Where's the comparable stories for Joe "Foot in Mouth" Biden and all his mis-statements?

    October 22, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. Niki, New Jersey

    I guess changing the role of VP as defined by our Constitution is just her way of "shaking things up" in Washington. America better watch out because this woman has her sights on a full fledged Theocracy with herself as the Supreme Leader. Her comments this morning on "Focus on the Family" were very telling of her vision for the rest of us. Good to know that Obama will hit it out of the park. All of you praising Palin must be from the "pro-America" areas of the United States. Those of us who live outside of those "pockets" will use our brains and vote for the most intelligent candidate and you "folks" can vote for McCain. News Flash, there are more of us! (you betch ya)


    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
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