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. LS, Austin, Texas

    Palin has no place in politics, and neither does McCain. These two are just a bad recipe for disaster in many different areas.

    McCain is an idiot for picking Palin. And Palin is every more of an idiot for agreeing to run for the VP position. And as for their supporters . . well, go figure.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. RobS

    Terry, you're crazy. Biden actually has an education and fully understands the role of vice president. However, based upon the recent discoveries of Palin's excesses with taxpayer money, she might only understand 'vice' part of vice president.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  3. Billy from Minneapolis

    It must be easy for Palin to talk to third graders when she sounds so much like a third grader.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  4. indepentent08 for obama/biden

    the mc moose camp. needs to tell sarah to sit down and shut up before she make's it worst for woman in politics. How can you say that the v.p. runs the senate? she needs to open up a book and read the our govnerment.

    laids and gentlemen lets all stop this playing around and get our and vote,

    obama/biden 2008

    hillary for secutary of state

    america let's role!!!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. Anna, VA

    Bob, that's not bias. They are reporting on something that actually happened and is actually extraordinarily concerning. Just because you don't want to hear it doesn't mean that it's biased.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  6. Dan S

    This is like the 5th time she has given such an answer to that question. It seems to me that she might actually be making a constitutional question for a power grab up front before she is elected. YIKES!

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  7. Sick and tired of getting screwed

    a third grader's answer is one grade above her second grade intellect.

    and dont bring God into it Sarah, it is perverse to state that god is against democrats.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  8. sm

    If the Senate is deadlocked there is nothing they can do without the VP. !!!!

    Biden said the other day that the VP does not really do anything !!!!

    Both these VP candidates appear to want more Power.

    Perhaps this is a Good idea !!!

    But the Powers of the President will have to be reduced in proportion.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  9. Justin Eilers

    Is she really qualified? Really?
    Responding to the first comment of the thread. Biden explained exactly what the Vice President does. Did you not watch the debate? It was very clear and very right. Now either you did not watch the debate or you have no clue, like Palin, what the Vice President does.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. LT In Texas

    Well, if she has seen the Senate, I guess that qualifies hers as having knowledge.

    Give her a break, she is way in over her head. Makes Dan Qualye look intelligent in retrospect.

    At least she did answer this question and not deflect to the her opponents.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  11. Lyndon,CA


    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  12. Alex Kreicbergs

    Senator Biden would certainly be effective in the legislation process based upon his long tenure in the Senate. However, Governor Palin would be somewhat limited by her experience on the Wasila City Council and the office of mayor.

    As for answering to a third grader, I think that she would find them her intellectual equals in most cases.

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

    And she just plan ignorant. It's okay not to know somethings, but if you're running for VP...you should really know and understand what your role is.

    McOld...I just don't know what to say to you. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr DUH!!!

    I voted for the RIGHT ONE, Obama/Biden!

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

    Biden couldn't even get which part of the constitution referred to the Vice President correct. And, his words seem to say the same thing she said.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  15. Steve, Jacksonville, Fl

    She should be asking the third grader the questions.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  16. Gene

    Good thing she "didn't even blink" when asked to do the job.. because we have to responsible and do what's right for the country...

    Too bad she doesn't even know what her job entails, or anything about the constitution, or in most cases, how to form a complete and cognitive sentence.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. GA Independent

    Why does the campaign continually have to explain what Palin meant to say?

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. CNN is SOOOOOOOOOO Biased

    Why on earth would CNN focus on this statement and completely spin it out of control and NOT focus on what Biden did in front of the entire country – he even mis-quoted the specific amendment. No big deal either way, both were mis-interpreted... but CNN only reported this one. I wonder why.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  19. Average Joe

    Saying that Sarah Palin tried to phrase the answer so a third-grader can understand it is like me saying I'll try to phrase an answer to Stephen Hawking can understand it.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. Renata Nicole

    I guess the McCain camp still has not explained to Sarah Palin exactly what a VP does. This woman is a shame and a disgrace. She needs to get a clue. I feel so sorry for the people of Alaska. If McCain wins then she will be a cancer on all of the American people and if McCain loses then she will continue to be a cancer on the people of Alaska.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided. The Senate shall chuse [sic] their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President..."

    Um....I think she's right. But, hey, liberals can read much gooder.

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

    Bob, if CNN is so untrusted, what are you doing here?

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  23. Jakob

    She gave the correct de jure answer. The vice president is President of the Senate and could sit in the presiding officers chair every day if she wanted to. Early vice presidents did this often.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  24. Angie

    Please, somebody send this clown back to alaska.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. Bill in Oakland

    Sarah, Sarah, Sarah...please read the U.S. Constitution on your next airplane flight. It's a quick read and actually contains some really really good stuff.

    P.S. The "good guys" wrote it.

    Obama/Biden 2008/2012

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