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. To the moon

    As a teacher, I take offense to that. A 3rd grader can understand the FACTS and should be given accurate information not false. Poor teaching, Palin!

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

    Palin has a third grader's conception of government. Spare us this ditz!

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. john

    If I were speaking to a third grader, i'd at least want to give the child a correct answer. This is so typical of this woman. She has no clue. SNL says, "thanks for writing this week's Palin gig." Sarah, you and Dan "Potatoe" Quayle are two peas in a pod. You betcha! Thanks, but no thanks, to you and John.

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Elbee

    It's not the VP's job to run the Senate, and to "expand" or "stretch" those powers as she indicated, is no better than Cheney and his ideas. Beware those who would rewrite or eliminate the constitution.

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. mom for obama

    Isn't this about the 4th time she has answered this question incorrectly? Shouldn't she know what a VP's job is by now? What 3rd grader doesn't understand "tie-breaker"? Perhaps she should study Constitutional Law...I hear Barack Obama has experience in that. Or, from another article, I guess she is just waiting for God to "do the right thing" on November 4. I've already place my early vote for Obama/Biden...a team who actually knows what their jobs will be and who will work for us.

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Karl

    Of course Palin was giving a third-grader response. What more can you expect from a third-grader mind? After two months to figure it out, she still hasn't a clue what a VP does! Unbe-fing-lievable!

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Good grief

    Joe Biden even gave her the answer to this question in their debate and she still gets it wrong. What an idiot!!

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  8. Kevin

    I think people overlook how dangerous this situation is. We not only have a VP nominee that doesn't understand her role, but one who has a documented history of abusing exectutive power. You think Dick Cheney is dangerous? Let this one into office and you will see a new definition of ruthless. GO VOTE!

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  9. the other jd

    No-Palin was answering in the way her limited third-grade comprehension level allows HER to understand it.

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  10. Amy For Obama

    Oh my god, I can't believe she said this!!

    See, if she was less negative, people would show simpathy towards her and try to defend her, but she is so unkind and so much of an attack dog, that you just don't know what to add!

    Except this proves why Colin Powell endorse Obama.

    Obama 08

    October 22, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  11. Brian (NC)

    Come on people, she's not that bad, dang. She has a good record of reform and she has the right idea about a lot of issues. She could have said "preside" over the Senate but she understands how kids think (she has five) so she explained it in that fashion.

    Would it have been better if Biden had grabbed the third grader and said, "Look, I'm smarter than you, so stop asking me these questions." LOL.

    October 22, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. GP

    This is the fourth time Palin has answered that the VP is in charge of the senate.

    She wasn't dumbing down her answer to a third grader.

    And do we really want a VP that would underestimates the intelligence of her audience? I'm sure a third grader could understand that a VP gets to cast a tie breaking vote in the senate and swear in newly elected congress persons. Not difficult to understand at all.

    October 22, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  13. Joyce E Neal

    Another reason why she is not ready to be Commander-in-Chief, she doesn't even know the role of the VP. As a member of the Army Reserve, I shutter at the thought of Sarah Palin being placed in the position of maybe being in charge of the military. It is time for Sarah to return to Alaska, her small-minded way of thinking is accepted there.

    October 22, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. Not being fooled

    Perhaps she is referring to the Dick Cheny version of the role of VP or perhaps she is truly one of the stupidest politicans ever.

    October 22, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  15. prcleburne

    She was trying to answer the question in a manner a 3rd grader could understand ? A 3rd grader can understand a correct answer as well as misleading answer.

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. Kyle

    This is so ridiculous. No where in this interview did Palin say anything about casting a vote for legislation in the senate. She was CLEARLY re-stating Article I, which says she can do whatever she wants to persuade the Senate to vote in a certain manner, minus actually casting a vote.

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. Bill

    Most things that come out of Sarah Palin's mouth seem to be at a third grade level...

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. Andrew

    Is she stupid or is she ignorant? How can you tell? Does it matter?

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  19. srw

    Overstate? Seriously? Why can't you simply state that she was completely WRONG about what the Vice President does?

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. justathought

    I've been trying my best for the longest time to find reasons to believe that Palin could be "President" (especially in the event of McCain's removal from office) and, I'm sorry, she answers questions with the intel of a college freshman (or Miss South Carolina)! Couldn't name historically important Supreme Court cases, couldn't name one periodical she routinely reads (what was she afraid of – just name something, anything!), her Alaskan-Russian foreign policy answer to Couric, et al.. I've lived in Europe for over 14 years, which gives me more foreign policy experience than SP. It's laughable the way she tries her best to answer questions – in detail – that she obviously has very little grasp of. Yes, she's smarter than a 5th grader but not close to being as smart as our President should be.

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. Cindy Nelson

    Palin was pulled right out of her Alaskan log cabin and on the VP ticket. She has no business trying to represent the lower 49.
    Go back to Alaska Palin, if they like you~ they can have you.

    Save us from this woman and send her packing back to Alaska.

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

    Actually trhe VP is in charge of the Senate. I quote, "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided."

    No where in the Constitution does it claim the job of President of the Senate is a ceremonial position and no where does it specifically say what President of the Senate does. It is purposely ambigous to allow the holder to define the position. Over the course of time the position has taken on a ceremonial role, but that is not what is in the Constitution. Maybe all of you people that are saying that she should go back and read the Consitution should try doing it yourslf. You are the ones that are idiots. Biden is the bigger idiot for stating that the VP has no role in the Legislative Branch when the Conbstitution specifically says that the office does and he should know it.

    Apparently most of you people aren't smarter then a 3rd Grader because you don't understand the job.

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  23. genek1953

    "Palin geared her answer to a 3rd grader."

    3rd graders needed to be given an incorrect answer because they wouldn't understand what voting to break a tie means...?

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  24. jd2774

    I guess if she answered so a third grader would understand she should at least give the correct answer..

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  25. Chuck

    Republican for a better country: I feel so sad for all of Palin's supporters. She gives the media and democrats more material daily to show how intellectually challenged she really is. And you blindly follow. Sort of like a religion to you is she?

    October 22, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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