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. McCain/Palin '08

    Obviously needs to be stated again, since those posting REFUSE to read the TRUTH, and the actual FACTS that are CLEARLY stated in Article I of the Constitution of the United States of America as opposed to just relying on what is typed in an article with a slanted interpretation by the liberal media. In FACT, it is Joe Biden who has misstated the role of the Vice President. So, before you sound even more ignorant, you should do your research, and READ THE CONSTITUTION YOURSELF...and I quote....

    Clause 4: The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

    Clause 5: The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.

    Sarah Palin has not misstated the role of the Vice President. Enough said. Move on.

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

    her we go. first she abused her poewer in Alaska, then she use Alaska to fund her family trips, left her town in dedt when she was mayor, now she think that she can be in power over the senate. when is everyone gonna wake up and not let this women be close to be in charge. OBAMA ALL THE WAY !!!!!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  3. Sue in MI

    If this were the first time she had overstated her perceived "job" you could cut her some slack. But every time someone asks, she says there is wiggle room in the Constitution for the role of VP. Sorry, Sarah, no wiggling in the Constitution. Maybe you should have read it before you said you'd take the job, and certainly in the 8 weeks since then. If you want to be a top executive of anything, it's nice to know what the job involves before your interview. I'd think a go-getter like you would know the ropes before the people hang you with them.

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

    Why do people keep blaming the media for what Palin said?!?! She SAID it, there is no liberal media making things up. It is VERY newsworhty when a candidate doesn't even know what her own job would be, when a VP candidate can't be bothered to read the CONSTITUTION!

    Stop blaming the media for your choosing of an ignorant inexperienced fool.

    October 22, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. Chris

    OKAY, at what point will you McCain supporters understand this selection speaks directly to John McCain JUDGEMENT!!! They are both wrong for this Country!!!

    October 22, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. She Must Not Succeed

    Sarah Palin represents a Clear and Present Danger to the National Security & Interests of The United States of America

    October 22, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  7. Never let them see you sweat....

    And to think that she is actually applying for a job that she doesn't even know what it entails.
    Enough is Enough!!!

    October 22, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    I would say most of her answers are geared to the third grade level. This particular answer is pretty scary when you stop to think about it.

    October 22, 2008 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  9. Lissa

    Let's not forget that when she was asked, in the summer, if she would consider becoming McCain's running mate, she asked what it is the Vice President does.

    Not surprising that she STILL doesn't know.

    October 22, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Edizen

    Palin said the same thing during her debate with Biden....that she would preside over the Senate. America needs to take a good hard look at how close they are to putting someone this unqualified a "heartbeat" away from the Presidency.
    GO OBAMA!!!

    October 22, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Jill American

    Sarah Palin knows nothing about national politics and we need to stop wasting our time expecting her to more than what she is.

    October 22, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. Chris

    Palin needs to contact Dick Cheney and ask him the job describtion of a vice president.

    October 22, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. Rhonda from SC

    Gotcha question from a third grader? You betcha!


    October 22, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  14. lj

    What an idiot. Oh and Ms Palin, you and McCain don't represent me. Since I have to work 3.5 years to get the amount of money your campaign spends on one outfit for you to wear, how on earth do you think you are Joe Six Pack, or a regular hockey Mom? Huh? Huh?

    That's three and a half YEARS of work for me that you spent on ONE outfit.

    And you think that giving ME a break in taxes is WRONG? That giving rich people a break is better?

    Listen, when all the poor people have no money left, what are you rich people going to do? Drain our blood too? Oh yeah, you repubs are already doing that with the war.

    October 22, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  15. Lorrie

    I am somone that has voted Republican in every election except one.

    I'm begging people to really listen to this woman and ask yourself if this is who you want sitting in the Situation Room in time of a crisis.

    This is a serious time, I hope people will put aside partisan views and
    and think about our country.

    October 22, 2008 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  16. Government Teacher

    Again, if you read the constitution it states in Article I Section 3: The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

    Technically she is right and CNN and most of these posters are wrong!!!!

    The VP typically does not preside over the senate but they have that right under the constitution. Am I the only one who has actually read it????

    Most people find something that they think is a 'gaffe' by Palin and they jump on it whether she is right or wrong. How about writing about some of the things that Obama and Biden say that is wrong.

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. JimG

    Just not the sharpest tool in the shed. Alas, most of the electorate hasn't a clue as to what the VP does either.

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. Greg, Atlanta

    BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID. We cannot let this power hungry, unethical liar into the White House...we as a nation cannot afford the atrocities that she would cause from her lack of knowledge. Sorry, I want someone smarter than Joe Six-Pack in the White House.

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Maybe Palin was answering so a third grader could understand it because that is about the same level grasp she has on the VP's role. Just a thought.

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Matt - MN Obama Supporter

    A response to Rob's comment:

    – "The key is in the story. Palin geared her answer to a 3rd grader. Her problem is she didn't dumb it down way further so an Obamaholic could understand it."

    – "Obama supporter: 'I support Obama'"
    – "Normal Person: 'OK then, I'll talk slower"'

    Okay, my problem with that reply is that this is not the first time she has made similar statements. The reality the Vice President has 2 jobs (And this is straight from the Constitution) – and that is to step in as president if the president is no longer able to execute the office due to illness, death, or other incapacitation. The other is to provide a tie-breaking vote in the senate when there is a tie.

    They are not part of the legislative body whatsoever and there is no "flexibility", as Palin likes to claim, in this statement. I have understood this as the role of the Vice President since I was in Fourth Grade and it honestly scares me that someone who holds and elected office in this country does not know this. She has had 7 weeks to figure this out and she has not yet and it should scare every American. And remember, Colin Powell – one of the most well respected leaders in the country – has said she is not ready. I trust his judgment above so many others.

    Now, I am an Obama supporter because we need wise judgment and all our national leaders should know the constitution from start to finish. I would say to folks who are frustrated with McCain and the direction of the country but can't support Obama – vote for Bob Barr the libertarian candidate. I would be comfortable with either Obama or Barr running the show – but I would be scared to have John McCain in the office of president, with Sarah Palin only heartbeat away.

    So Rob, it's not that we need folks to speak slower – we just need Sarah Palin to actually read the constitution and understand what the Vice President does – something she should have done before even accepting the nomination.

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. Dan

    DB – Colorado

    "Unfortunately, she is catering to the uneducated and undecided hate-mongers in this country that are fearful of imaginary terrorists and losing control of power."

    Problem is, they're the ones who re-elected Bush!

    Do not become complacent people! Do not let your friends, families, and acquaintences become complacent! We must see this through and make a big enough win for Obama that no Republican dirty tricks can undo it!


    Obama/Biden '08

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

    So she's dumber than a third grader. She makes me laugh.

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. mark s.

    she has an IQ, I understand, of 120. Wonder what wonder boy's is? He would probably intone to the third grader "verily, our Constitution doth vest said Vice-President with ceremonial powers to preside over the Senate."

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. Alicia

    Democrat for McCain, it's funny you should mention being a racist, the only reason I can think of that a Democrat would vote for McCain is because they are racist...I bet you were a Hilary supporter huh?!?!? They're stance on most issues is almost identical. The McCain campaign thrives on the likes of simpletons like you, knowing you're too small minded to vote for a Black president. Why do you think the people at his rallies are so incensed...wake up sweetie, you're kind of the exact thing you called Obama's shady friends!

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Arlene-- Illinois

    The more Sarah Palin speaks don't ya kinda wish she'd
    say that its been great but I'm head'in back to Alaska on
    the 5th of November.

    October 22, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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