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. Amanda

    I always suspected she wasn't smarter than a 3rd grader. Now we know.

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


    its no wonder they did not want her talking to the media alone.... 🙁



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

    Obviously someone still has not told her what exactly it is that a vice president does.

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

    Sarah Palin is not, I repeat not, dumb ! She is just plain ignorant.

    October 22, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  5. D

    In the words of Bugs Bunny: "What a maroon!"

    Gov. Palin, you know what to say... and say it to the camera right there.

    "I'm NOT smarter than a 5th Grader."

    October 22, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. No - I'm Fed Up!

    It's so funny how these Democrat Kool-Aid Drinkers seem to forget that Obama has "visited 57 States with one left to go".

    To quote "Fed UP!"

    If the Man doesn't know how many states there are, then WHY ON EARTH IS HE running for President????

    Dear God can he get any DUMBER??

    I am sick and appalled that ANY AMERICAN is giving him the time of day!!


    October 22, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Brent

    Her spokesperson says that Palin was simply answering the question in a way a third grader could understand. The problem, though, is that if the third grader understood her answer then the third grader was misinformed. Explaining things in simple terms DOES NOT mean explaining them incorrectly.

    As far as the reading issue goes, I guess we now know that Palin doesn't read the Constitution either.

    October 22, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. NM Moderate

    Cuter than a sack full of puppies...but dumber than a bag of hammers!

    October 22, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. Debra in Georgia

    The sad thing is that this isn't the first time she got the answer wrong!!! Try at least FOUR times since July!! And she says God will do the "right" thing in November!!!
    Let us pray......

    Obama/Biden '08

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

    Dear John:

    I am leaving you....


    Republican Party

    October 22, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  11. Carl Rove

    Palin is qualified despite thsi slip up–shes been in the PTA hasnt she
    Thats VP material in my book.....they say McCain is experienced but then wheres his PTA membership-thats one qualification he misses and for that reason I will vote Obama/Biden

    October 22, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  12. Matt

    How hard is it simply say, "If there is a tie in the senate, I decide the winner."

    As long as a 3rd grader has an understanding of what a "tie" is, and I would hope he/she did, then the child would understand.

    Perhaps those of you defending her comments shouldn't underestimate our nation's children.

    October 22, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  13. KJL

    Has Palin bothered to learn anything about how the US government works? It's seems her biggest talent is finding ways to pry extra money out of the Alaskan budget for her personal use. I don't think she's stupid, but she seems to think everyone else is. She's lazy and self-centered.

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

    You know, if Palin could take 20 minutes to read the Constitution, she might know better. If it's true that she graduated college with a degree in political science, I'd hate to know what her grades were. I know for a fact I would not have graduated with that same degree if I displayed that level of stupidity.

    Chris from NC

    October 22, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. Ronda Weaver

    Maria Comella said she was speaking in third grader terms,well I'm a mom of a third grader and I can promise you that if she would of said she was able to offer a tie breaking vote for the senate my third grader would of understood that since probably first grade.I think she always connects with third graders because thats's her mentality! She doesn't even play well with others!

    October 22, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. Indiana Democrat

    Sarah Palin wasn't answering so a third grader could understand it. She was answering with her 3rd grade mentality.

    October 22, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. George Ebong

    I am so sorry for Sarah Palin. Really sorry for not even knowing what her roles are supposed to be. She is really FAKE

    October 22, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  18. Tanya Kujath

    This is another yet prime example of her ignorance to be VP of this wonderful yet very complicated Country.

    October 22, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  19. SJC

    Conservative Repubilcans seem to have no ability to learn. After having eight years of idiot speak and a president who disgraces this country every time he opened his mouth, conservative Republicans want more of the same, namely Sarah Palin. It's one thing to oppose Obama's policies but to support having dopes in high office is incomprehensible.

    I just heard Obama hold a news conference in Richmond, VA. It was refreshing to hear someone really intelligent address the major issues of our day.

    October 22, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  20. SK2 - Delaware

    Palin taking questions on the "tough" media. Finally an interview she can handle. Seems that both her and the third grader were on the same intellectual level.

    No way can this person run this country. She doesn't even understand the job duties she is running for.

    I would take my chances with the third grader running this country over Palin. By the way, don't you love how everytime Palin talks that someone has to follow her around to "explain" what she really ment to say?

    – OBAMA / BIDEN – 2008 (and beyond!!!!)

    October 22, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. Al

    Good Grief!

    Governor Palin was answering a third grade student! Not a political junkie! A eight or nine year old! Of course you have to simply things for young kids. Parents do it all the time. Get real people. Anyway the VP is the President of the Senate so Governor Palin is right! Ceremonial unless needed to break a deadlock!

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

    Interesting. This time she reports she was explaining it to a third grader, and thats true. But, Who then was she speaking to durring the debate? Does the McCain-Palin ticket think we are all third graders? How could anyone vote for the ticket where they dont even know thier roles....

    October 22, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  23. John in Ohio

    She wants power.

    As evidenced and documented and on record in Alaska, she abuses the power she gets.

    Do you want her in the position of VP, increasing her power and abusing that power, on a level that would make Cheney blush? Do you want her in the position of President freely abusing her power?

    If you do you are an idiot.

    October 22, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  24. Kim

    Wow, she probably got the wrong idea of what the VP's role is from Biden. Since he was the first VP candidate this election to erronously state the role of the VP.

    October 22, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  25. Dem in Nebr

    Stunning. And terrifying!

    October 22, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
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