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. FL Rep for Obama

    Ummm...Terry, you're so confused. Senator Biden has been a Senator for decades and I'm sure he understands the role of the VP. Palin needs a first grader to explain it to her so she'll understand...

    October 22, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  2. Mari for Obama

    Sarah Palin has provided us with plenty of humor this election season. With the economy in the shape it is in-we needed the laughs. Just so everyone gets out there and votes-I sure don't want to be crying Nov 4th!

    October 22, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  3. Accountant Guy

    Wow, she is really all about abusing her power. I guess she thinks since she did it in Alaska, she can do it in the Senate. She is unethical and can't be trusted with any shred of power!! Get out and Barack the Vote !!

    Obama/Biden '08

    October 22, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. Benjamin Columbus,OH

    ******BREAKING NEWS******

    According to Gov. Palin, when Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, he was referring to only neighors in those "pro-America" parts of the country!

    Jesus was a Socialist

    October 22, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  5. Andy from Michigan

    What about Biden calling JOBS a three letter word

    October 22, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. Vince in VA

    She explained in terms a third-grader could understand because that's theo nly way she know how. What a dolt.

    October 22, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  7. Paul

    She was basing her answer on the Cheney VP model, not the Constitutional one.

    October 22, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  8. kaar mogan

    Terry "cry some more" the article is about Palin....wipe your eyes cry baby

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  9. Boye

    Don't be a fool Terry, Biden stated exactly what the job of the VP is. Even stating the article in the constitution that describes the VP role in the senate.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  10. Joey

    Hey, Terry – Biden does know what the VP does, and he stated it in the debate. He even quoted the Constitution.

    Palin was responding to how a third grader would understand the question... or what Republicans think the job does anyway.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  11. Frightened in Ohio

    I don't like her and have great confidence in the Democratic ticket. But this criticism is just silly. We don't need to join them to beat them

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. amber

    OMG...leave this woman alone CNN! This is ridiculous. She was talking to a 3rd grader!! You DO realize 3rd graders do not have the same mentality as adults, right?! My Lord. Why don't you just put this woman a cross and be done with it.

    Leave Palin alone. You journalists are horrible.

    And BTW, I"m a Democrat.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  13. Michael in San Diego

    This is just one more nail in the coffin. GObama!

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  14. DeniseGA

    She keeps saying it it's about time someone call her on it!

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. Will the Real Maverick Please Stand Up?

    YES!!! Talk to the press as much as you can Sarah! Please!! We need more of that (tragic) comedy relief that streams from your mouth!!

    She has absolutely no clue. Not one. Zero. Zilch. She couldn't buy one either.

    Yup, John made a good choice when he picked you.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. mrs sims

    Need We Say More?????
    Obama/ Biden 08

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. Holly

    My homeschooled nephew, age 10, could have given a better answer. And he's been to more foreign countries than she has. Too bad he isn't 35, or he'd be qualified for VP!

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. PUMBU


    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. Phil, CA

    No, she wasn't "Explaining in terms a third-grader could understand." She has misstated the role of the VP on three other occasions – one time in the VP debate and in two separate television issues (though I'm sure the Repubs would call that a "gotcha" question). Palin has no idea what the VP does (which isn't very much), can't explain anything about government at higher than a third-grade level, and, based on these two FACTS, isn't qualified to be the VP, let alone the President.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  20. Ephy

    Third grader could've explained better.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  21. Joseph Adewole

    She's powe drunk already; but it will be her household senate, definitely not America Senate because she will never be the VP.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  22. Filipina

    Sarah Failin.....you are not a smarter than a 3rd grader!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. Herman In LA

    What a joke, we really, really need the smartest and brightness people in office this time around...


    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. bob in spokane

    Amazing how Palin is smarter and more experienced then Obama, and actually knows the role of the VP but the Bush haters cannot see past their hatred and retoric to see what a bad solution Nobama is for this country. You people need to get a job and see what its like trying to keep enough of your money away from the government so that you can actually retire on YOUR OWN MERIT someday.

    October 22, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. mike

    God please save us from this woman....the next 14 days will be the longest in my life. and if mccain wins, i'm moving to canada, not 'cuz i hate mccain but i can't stand how dumb this woman is. i can even tolerate dick cheney, but this is too much. she leaves you speechless.....

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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