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. bmore4real

    People please get out and VOTE!!!!

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. Schook

    Has anyone noticed who she is addressing the answer to the question to? A third grader!!! Do you really think he needs a technical explanation that this article provided???! Come on- get over it and why isn't anyone attacking Biden -he had some pretty weak ideas on what the vp's role is as well! Oh yeah, I forgot, the liberal media is the one putting this article out!
    I wish people would stop calling her DUMB, too. She is not by any means dumb, so leave her alone!!! Anyone who can run a house with 5 children, be in charge of a PTA org (talk about learning to deal with all kinds of people there), run a city, and run a state. How can you even question experience!?
    I am so sick and tired of the media going after EVERY statement and overanalyzing it until your head spins. Why don't we analyze the policies as strongly as we analyze every statement they make to the press and public??

    McCain-Palin '08!

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

    she's not all together incorrect.. people go crazy over the fact that shes not a cookie cutter politician. if u did research you would see the VP is the PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE!! u can get it right off of the governmental senate site. Do some research..

    Obama is the worst choice for president.

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Phil Newton from Murphy, Oregon

    "She was explaining in terms a third-grader could understand that the vice-president is also president of the U.S. Senate."

    Yes. And she UNDERSTANDS it in third-grade terms.

    Or should we say, "second rate" terms.

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. joannie

    Well, well this shows how she knows, she does't even know the duty of the VP. This just McCain's poor judgment.

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  6. FL

    Sarah! Sarah!! Sarah!!! What else do you lack? Even a second grade level question you buched it? This one is going with voters to the polls. Please, take the rest of the year off and plan on re-educating yourself.

    I wonder then the level of elementary school education is in your state, Alaska. I think you might be much more better hunting Moose than a VP role.

    Goodluck back to Alaska.

    Obama/Biden 2008

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Elaine

    Wey to go Palin, my 7 yr old could answer that question much better than you did, please do not limit children intellegence to your own, they are much smarter than you think. "wink"

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  8. Jersey Matt

    Darn those 8-year-olds and their "gotcha journalism."

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  9. Will18E

    Just an addition to the long list of why Palin is not qualified to be V.P.
    She does not even yet, understand the role of the V.P.

    October 22, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  10. Wes Nielsen

    If a sitting governor of a major energy producting state like Alaska, Sara Palin, cannot factually and accurately explain the limitations imposed upon her prospective VP office, regarding its function in the Senate, how can she say she is ready to be vice president, and for that matter, how much would she understand about the presidency itself.

    If I were John McCain, and given further to foolish choices, I'd rather see Elmer Fudd in there.

    Vote for Barak and Joe!


    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  11. AJ in Omaha, NE

    Doesn't she have kids? Is this how she explains her job to them or does she say she's the "President of Alaska." By the way, last time I checked, third graders were not allowed to vote and since they are 9 or 10 they were probably outside playing and not listening to the question being answered on national television because they SIMPLY DON'T CARE! It's time to grow up Mrs. Palin, you're playing with the big kids now and gibberish doesn't go very far. Mr. McCain, you've made a poor choice and this registered republican is going to the polls today to vote for THAT ONE!!

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  12. Terry

    This comment is similar to her statement during the debate. As with other issues, she shows a lack of understanding of the constitution as well as world affairs. Of even greater concern to me, when she makes an error on a critical piece of information, her handlers either do not instruct her or she chooses to ignore the reality and hope that the American people are as under-informed as she appears to be. If her goal is to appeal to the lowest common denominator she is succeeding. Our founding fathers believed that education was important for all Americans for our democracy to succeed. Perhaps it is time for Ms. Palin to be schooled.

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  13. Laura

    I like it when Sarah Palin talks......it makes me more hopeful that Obama will win.

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. DANIEL

    How about someone just print out a copy of the Constitution and give them a copy since Biden doesn't know what article the VP is under and Palin is still needs to learn. In my opinion Palin knows more than the Democratic party combined.

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Francheska Georgia

    Can someone one this blog tell me what Palin actually knows? We learned in civics what the role of the VP is. In charge of the Senate was not taught to me in school...but then again I did attend high school in the 90's, a lot of corners were cut for budget reasons. 😉

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  16. Moo

    I adore the fact that a law scholars comments on the issue are not posted.

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    SNL is not funny. Sarah Palin is funny. Palin is a joke.

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  18. marie

    Amazing that even ONE person finds Palin credible!

    October 22, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. gfields

    It seems that, in "explaining in terms a third-grader could understand", Governor Palin has at last found her intellectual level.

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  20. EB

    Are you smarter than a 3rd grader? I don't think so, Gov Palin.

    Sit down, clown!

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. larry

    She was responding to a third grader's question in terms that even her dumb supporters wili have no idea that she is totally wrong.

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  22. Jorge

    Darn gotcha journalism! Someone get that third grader out of here.

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  23. daniel Sagherian

    Palin does not belong to this caliber of leadership. I will live obsessed with the fear of what will come to us should something happen to a V.P. Palin's President.

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  24. Go away, Sarah

    The ego and ambition of this woman is unbelievable. She wants to re-define the position of Vice President, as she stated in the debate with Biden. And now, she can't even state what the job of the Vice President is, and presumes to know what God thinks as well?!!? How arrogant!

    I can't fathom how anyone is still willing to vote for this ticket. The only explanation is fear of change. This ticket's karma will become this nation's, or however you want to look at it. They are putting a big, red target on all of our heads.

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. jim

    "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."

    Yet another whining neocon heard from. Go back to never never land ya neocon LEMMING

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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