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. glendower

    Only a third-grader could vote for Palin.

    October 22, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  2. young and informed independant WASP( woman against sarah palin )

    to -bob in spokane- if you want to hurt cnn,
    stop coming to their website would be a start, just like a republican all talk.. saying you're going to boycott cnn and then posting about it on their website is a big contradiction. BUT so are most of the policies coming from your republican ticket of delusion.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  3. Lauren independent voter i California

    Palin seems to be power hungry, the scary thing is that she doesn't seem to be educated enough to have any power. As an independent voter palin causes me great concern, it is because of her that I am having a hard time trying to decide whether or not to vote for mccain. I am afraid of where her ignorance on a whole host of issues would take our country.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. Jess

    A third grader explaining to a grade three student...

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  5. Jeremy - Columbus, OH

    What a dingbat. This woman is completely clueless and ignorant.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. LT In Texas

    bob in spokane October 22nd, 2008 12:11 pm ET

    I am so sick of liberal bias. I am going to figure out how to hurt these guys in the pocket book. Boycott all liberal media. They need to be required to register as political action committees. Especially CNN the most untrusted source of news in the world.

    So what would you call FOX and all the stations carrying Limbaugh, Hannitty et all?

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Barbara - 65 yr old white female in NC

    She's a ditz in lipstick and expensive clothes.

    The RNC (taxpayer funded) spent $150,000 on clothes, accessories, makeup for the Palin family.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. The Cosmos & McCain Rocks!!

    »SARAH "So GREAT!" PALIN versus JOE "So BORING!" BIN=Guess who will WIN?!?!?»WAKE UP USA!!WAKE UP VOTERS!!!

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. katiec

    Remember, she says when she is elected she and Mccain
    will work to give the office of Vice president extended
    Heave help us!!

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  10. Sonali

    People should thank Sarah Palin for providing such valuable entertainment in such dire economic times- she is a big joke after all -and it's your own dumb fault if you expect more from her. Brandon Garcia for VP!

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  11. A Woman In California For Obama:

    She's so ignorant. I should just go and apply to be a dentist. Why not? Palin has no experience or knowledge in the vp area why should I have to?

    I can't wait until she goes away. Please America send her and her dysfunctional family back to the wilderness where they can continue to dwell in the dark.

    Just as she lied and cheated on expense reports and charged it to the people of Alaska-she would do the same in the federal sector.

    No thanks to the waterboy or his girl friend.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  12. PUMBU


    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  13. DeniseGA

    @ Bob

    PUH_LEEZE, she said it in the debate and Biden corrected her and no one jumped on it.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  14. Shari, NY

    OK since Biden is being cited here, let's have a Fact Check on the gaffes he and his counterpart have made. No contest.

    There will be a World Summit on Nov. 15. God, please let the U.S. President-elect be the smart one participating in this VIP meeting– Yes, THAT ONE!

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  15. Irishspacemonk

    bobbie in spokane – how is this a liberal bias. It's your idiot VP candidate that gave an answer that was flatly wrong, scary and demonstrative of her lack of knowledge.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  16. insanity

    Terry October 22nd, 2008 12:08 pm ET
    Why didn't you report on how Biden (during the debate) had no clue as to what a VP's responsibilities are?

    If you were any more in the tank you would be called Rommell.

    Terry, Biden said he HOPE to influence the senate. That's different from mistaking the role of the VP.
    I think you're in the tank for McInsane, that you grasp at straws to draw equivalencies.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  17. Gary

    What now, is all we are going to hear is " Brandon the Third Grader"
    Please Brandon, run and hide. The parrott party is heading your way.
    Palin talking to a third grader at his level, isn't that above her education?
    Another sign Ms Abuse of Power is planning a take over.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. Robert

    Once again Palin shows her Plitical ignorance. McCain's choice for VP also shows his poor judgement and is slap in face of the American people.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. SoCal

    Please note that such a tricky question came from a third-grader...

    Sarah, aren't your kids supposed to attend school?

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. Lisa P

    So, not smarter than a third grader... 😉

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  21. McCrazy

    In that CNN interview, Palin defended why her husband abused the governor's power. Didnt she say last week they didn't abuse the power? Now she admitted it but with her 100 excuses?

    please end this. go vote early!

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  22. 52 yr. old white Houston oil man

    America, we already had a cheerleader running this country (that would be W) and look what happened.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  23. Gino

    Dumb, dumber, dumberest.

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  24. BJs65

    Oh boy...how can anyone with a brain seriously believe she is ready for the job?

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  25. confused miami

    Well what people expect from here anymore? I guess she isn't smarter as a 3 rd grader. But what really get's me is that she has been ask that question before and got it wrong, you think she let the basic facts by the time she been ask that question again. But what you expect

    October 22, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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