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. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    Sarah still doesn't know what the VP's role is. Cheney just abused his "power and influence" in whatever he has done to screw up things.

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

    This woman is hopeless.

    McCain killed his campaign by selecting her.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  3. EBJ in Texas

    People just need to STOP picking on poor Sarah. She is over her head in this position and she can't really help all the wrong things that the media covers that she says. She's only good at being an attack dog for McCain and she should stick at that. LEave poosr Sarah alone, JUST LEAVE HER ALONE! sniff sniff

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

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

    Please post CNN.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  5. A Mom

    Those darn third graders....always posing those "gotcha" questions.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  6. Nick

    There goes Palin again exposing her ignorance. Why does the GOP not coach or at least ask her to keep quiet if she does n't know the answer.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  7. MD, TX

    She is saying the exact same thing as Biden only using different words. CNN should try and be more neutral in this contest.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. Scott

    Another "gotcha" moment. Those tricky 3rd graders.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  9. April Banks

    My God help us all!

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  10. go away mongers- Ventura,CA

    After all these tries you'd think she would have learned by now what the Vice President does. The more she talks, the better it is for Obama-Biden! This is just another proof that McCain's judgment is seriously WRONG!

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

    Wait, so if I'm understanding this right... Palin tells a third grader that the VP is kind of the in charge of the Senate and she dumped on and Biden basically says the same thing without a word. Weird.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |


    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. TwinLogic

    She admits she doesn't keep up with current events (couldn't answer what she reads or name any Supreme Court Decision she disagreed with), She didn't know what the Bush Doctrin was or meant, she believes some American communities are more American than others (what's the standardized test? – No American left behind program?) – This is not the media spinning anything – these are her own comments.
    She is simply the toy in the GOP Happy Meal.
    She claims to support people of special needs – yet the Rep Gov of California (Arnold's) pet program is helping people of special needs and asked her to hire some one of special needs – this was even before this nomination – yet she never hired a special needs person and has not made any plans do do so in the future.

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

    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

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  15. Paula

    This woman is a total disgrace.I cringe at the idea of her alone with a world leader.McCain has proven he's not a maverick and I'm questioning his honor by his long list of foolish choices.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  16. Eric

    What an IDIOT.

    A fourth grader knows more about the Constitution than she does.

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Just another excuse...

    Phenominal...first she cant mention the newspapers she reads, then she is unable to name a Supreme Court decision she disagrees with, and now she can't properly explain the role of the VP...
    And the excuse of her attempting to explain it to a third grader as they would understand it is pathetic (I think a third grader can understand the statement "I'm the tiebreaking vote in the Senate if there is a tie")...If anything I think you'd want to explain it to a third grader correctly so that they dont have a misconception of the position from somebody who has the possibility holding that position. Perhaps if Palin had the common sense and the IQ of a thrid grader she'd know a little better...Just another reason why this woman scares me

    October 22, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Kellie

    I would like to know why your network is not harping on Joe Biden's comments? Quit leaning left and report the news the way it should be done. Unbiased and from both sides.

    October 22, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  19. Carlos

    God every time she opens her mouth is a new disaster. If I were McCain I would be shipping her to Alaska in a minute. The comedians will have material for years thanks to her, after this election. I mean, Palin gives DUMB a new meaning... it is beyond words...

    October 22, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Lee

    Schook, Schook, Schook...please, grab a towel and sop up some of that Republican juice...you are lousy with it...

    This isn't a quibble about the role of the VP or an overly technical article and a less than technical answer.

    This is about a power mad, under qualified person, taking the cues of the current VP and redefining the position. No matter how you slice it, the VPs job is not to be in charge of the Senate.

    The VP has several jobs: take over for the President in the case of death or incapacitation; lobby for the President's agenda and serve as President Pro Tempore of the Senate. That last one, the one that consistently trips up Sarah the Ethics Violation, means that the VP simply casts deciding votes in the case of a tie and swears in new senators.


    Please...if youcan see past the elephant on the door, you will see that this country needs Obama/Biden in 08 (and 12)...

    October 22, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  21. Sue in MI

    Looks like Tina Fey isn't the only one getting material from Sarah Palin.
    She is kind of comical in her lack of understanding, and what some people who know her say is her lack of curiosity...meaning that she has her mind set on something, and doesn't explore any other avenues. You have to look at her RNC advisers too, because the first time she blew this answer, they should have clarified it for her and made sure she answered correctly.
    So either she's getting bad advice, or she can't learn, or she doesn't care and plans to make this office over to her specifications...either way, we have had 8 years of stubborn, illegal, and ineffective leadership, and are ready to try something else.

    October 22, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. CNN loves Palin

    Where is the story on Palin's $150,000.00 shopping spree?

    October 22, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. Adam

    I realize she was talking to a child and perhaps tried to simplify her answer. However, she could have just said that the VP is there to help the president with running the country. In my opinion that is really one of the basic duties of the VP and would have been easily understood by a 3rd grader. By the way, this is not the first time she has expressed this view of the VP being in charge of the Senate.

    I just can't fathom what was going thru McCain's head when he picked her...

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

    Some one need to send this Animal killer bit*ch back to Alaska when she belongs. She is not qualified to be anything but kill wolfs.

    October 22, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  25. OptimisticTX

    Who in their right mind would select this woman as their VP?

    October 22, 2008 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
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