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. John, Howell, NJ

    So Sarah Palin, who will NOT be our next vice president, misstated the role of vice president.

    Meanwhile Joe Biden, who WILL be our next vice president, also misstated the role of the vice president (in his remarks that Hillary was better suited to the role of "president of the senate than as vice president").

    Which person presents the bigger problem?

    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. clevin giles

    Maybe the 3rd Grader was a PLANT.

    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. No Palin!!!!! No

    The 3rd grade media is against Palin. Stop those 3rd graders from attacking her. Wow, she's hilarious.

    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. 40 Below

    So she says it so a 3rd-grader can understand – are the 3rd graders the ones who are voting? She must think the average American is a moron to not understand anything beyond the 3rd-grade level.

    Please also read up on how Palin makes the state of Alaska pay tens of thousands of dollars for her three daughters' unnecessary travel, stating they are on "official business." If her reasoning is she wants to spend more time with her kids, perhaps she should consider a profession that will let her stay closer to home.

    Please educate yourself before you vote for Palin/ McCain. With McCain's age & health, Palin might find herself the next president. IMO, it's not the kind of "change" we want.

    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. Darrel from Denver

    No, Biden didn't 'pull the same stunt' or 'say the same thing'. He said that, as one who knows the members and the body, and, as a respected member of Congress, he could work on Obama's behalf to get legislation through the Congress.

    He did not state he had powers beyond the Constitution, which is what Palin has said 4 times now.

    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. dave

    people keep saying the GOP is being too viscious with their attacks... but from what i can tell on these boards it appears the obama supporters are far more negative and prone to attack. But then again... if all they did was talk about issues it would be even scarier. You guys truly believe only the wealthy will lose the tax breaks? Has anyone ever actually seen what a federal budget looks like or have even the sligthest idea how it works? I'm not saying McCain is a solid alternative... they both should be ridiculed and laughed at.

    Poor Ron Paul

    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |

    This is beyond funny.


    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. New Yorker

    Palin is the one who correctly answered the question about the job description of V.P. The vice-president IS the president over the senate. but can only vote if there is a tie. Now go look up what it means to be "president" over the senate. Too many fools believing the liberal media's interpretation.

    October 22, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. frustrated

    Did anyone else notice she said the same thing in the VP debate? She certainly wasn't speaking to third graders then. Maybe it's an indication that she only has a third grader's understanding of the VP position.

    October 22, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Todd

    Third graders understand what a tiebreaker is, but they probably don't understand what the word "policy" means.

    October 22, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  11. David, Silver Spring, MD

    Palin was answering the question in a way a third grader could understand. It just so happens that that's also Palin's level of comprehension.

    October 22, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. RUN4UR$ from PA

    Sarah, I voted for OBAMA/BIDEN '08. Just thought I let you know.

    October 22, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. Betty

    Please God...have mercy on us...No Palin.

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

    Is she smarter than a third grader? Maybe so, but you'd never know it in the lame answers she's given so far in the campaign. Every time she opens her mouth, I'm reminded of a beauty pageant interview. How sad that McCain chose to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. I really have to wonder what he was thinking. Obama and Biden are going to win in a landslide.

    October 22, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  15. Kay Alfa

    I think her name is Sarah Putin and not Sarah Palin. She is actually from Russia maybe thats why the vice president is in charge of the US senate.

    October 22, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  16. JimG

    And now Dobson is praying for divine intervention on her behalf?! Palin is sure that God will do the right thing on Nov 4.?! I didn't know that God was a Republican. Oh, that's right, I forgot that the GOP has cornered the market on faith and no one outside the party is a good Christian. I'm praying for divine intervention. But the intervention I want is that we replace the high-functioning moron in the White House with someone as intelligent as Obama!

    October 22, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  17. Joe

    Palin pretty much used the same description with Katie Couric, and she's not in third grade is she? Personally, I'm very glad to see the GOP shot themselves in the foot with her selection to run for VP. Another example of just how much they don't get what this country is really about.

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

    Why doesn't she just go home? How many times does she have to get beat down before leaving. I am a Republican who will be voting for Barack Obama – my decision was predicated on John McCains inability to stand strong, his Vice President selection, and her inability to answer a question without fumbling. I realize he is the top ticket, BUT, Sarah Palin will have responsibilities and she may be able to govern Alaska, but my gut tells me she is not able to take on the entire United States should the unthinkable happen, and that is the job of Vice President – not to take charge of the Senate!!

    October 22, 2008 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  19. Josh C.

    I fogot to say though too I really don't care about what she said mainly because i've heard Obama, McCain, and Joe Biden ALL SAY DUMB THINGS. I'm sorry democrats but you know it's not a big deal, you don't want me to bring up bad Obama quotes do you?

    October 22, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  20. scott Peters

    This is not funny...This is a very scary issue that this young lady is a heart beat away from being the President of the United States and still don't know the full role in which she has been appointed to. The saddest part is how the world is viewing us as a nation. What a joke!

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

    It really amazes me that McCain would have KNOWINGLY selected this woman for his VP. (????) What WAS he thinking? The choice of Palin only reinforces to the majority of Americans that he does NOT make sound and wise decisions, that he has NOT picked a running mate with the best interest of the USA in mind, and that any future decisions he may (heaven forbid) make will most certainly be as reckless as this one. He would most likely be much closer in this race – had he chosen a bright, intellectual VP – woman or not – who can actually formulate an insightful, intelligent sentence and without adding to the inflammatory, divisive, chanting she seems to thrive on. GOOOOOO OBAMA!!!!! (from NC!!)

    October 22, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  22. Jeanine G

    If Palin was explaining it in a way a 3rd grader would understand then why didn't she explain the CORRECT answer in simple terms? Now the child has been led to believe that the Veep is in charge of the Senate which just isn't true.

    A family wardrobe budget from the GOP, travel expenses for her kids paid for by Alaskan citizens....I suppose she BELIEVES she would have more power then she actually would seeing as she isn't a person who can handle the word "no".

    October 22, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. Cathy from Colorado

    Another "gotcha question" from a 3rd grader, no less!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  24. Phil in KC

    I don't think Palin was trying to dumb it down for a 3rd Grader. I think she truly thought she was in charge of the Senate and could "get in there and mix it up". It shows how dangerous this woman is.
    Her ignorance of the role of VP is far different than Joe Biden indicating that he would lobby Congress on behalf of the President.

    October 22, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. Steve in WY

    If this was the only time she explained the VP role is this manner, I would chalk it up to the 3rd grade audience. But she has said the same thing on numerous occasions. Including her response at the debates that she wants to expand the power of vice presidency into the legislature.

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