Palin Says Vice President “In Charge Of” Senate

By Nitya

Oct 22, 2008 7:51am

ABC News’ Imtiyaz Delawala and Z. Byron Wolf Report: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in a local interview that the vice president is "in charge of" the U.S. Senate and "can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes" – the second time she has claimed a more expansive role for the vice president than the U.S. Constitution outlines.

On Monday while in Colorado, Palin taped an interview with Denver NBC affiliate KUSA. At the end of the interview, she was asked to participate in the station’s "Questions from the Third Grade" series, in which candidates have fielded questions from local elementary school students. 

"Brandon Garcia wants to know, ‘What does the Vice President do?’" Palin was asked.

"That’s something that Piper would ask me, as a second grader, also," Palin responded, referencing her seven-year-old daughter.

"A vice president has a really great job because not only are they there to support the president’s agenda, they’re there like the team member, the teammate to the president," Palin continued. “But also, they’re in charge of the United States 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. And it’s a great job and I look forward to having that job.”

While the Vice President does serve as president of the Senate, according to the U.S. Constitution, the vice president’s role is fairly limited to casting tie-breaking votes.

Article I of the Constitution states that "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided."

In recent years, the role has been largely ceremonial. Vice President Dick Cheney has cast just eight tie-breaking votes during the Bush administration. Most recently in March, Vice President Cheney broke a tie on a procedural motion whether to consider an amendment that would have rolled back tax rates for the alternative minimum tax.

The vice president can also preside over floor debate in the Senate — a role usually filled by the Senate president pro tempore, and more often done by first-term senators.

Palin was also asked the role of the vice president in her debate earlier this month with Senator Joe Biden, where she cited the vice president’s role presiding over the Senate as a way to "exert a bit more authority" to work with the Senate on the president’s agenda.

"I’m thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president’s policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are," Palin said in the debate.

When asked to explain her remarks in an interview with Fox News the day after the debate, Plain reiterated her position that overseeing the Senate would give her "a tremendous amount of flexibility and authority" to work with the Senate.

"The vice president, of course, is not a member, or a part of the legislative branch, except to oversee the Senate," Palin told Fox News’ Carl Cameron. "That alone provides a tremendous amount of flexibility and authority if that vice president so chose to use it."

Critics have charged that Palin’s remarks signal an intent to try to exert more influence than the vice president should have. But Palin added in her Fox News interview that a McCain-Palin administration had no intention of "bleeding our authority" over the legislative branch.

"Our executive branch will know what our job is," Palin said. "We have the three very distinct branches of government. You know, we won’t be bleeding our authority over to the legislative or judicial branch to do our job in the executive branch as administers."

Palin’s vice presidential rival Sen. Joe Biden, has also said that he would seek to use his role as vice president to work actively with the Senate – a body he has served in since 1972. When asked by CBS News’ Katie Couric which vice president impresses him the most, Biden named Lyndon Johnson, who served as vice president during President John F. Kennedy’s first term.

"He was able to be a significant facilitator of a new frontier, new policy. People in the Congress knew him, knew he knew a lot," Biden said. "And so 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. 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."

ABC News’ Michael Bradley contributed reporting to this story.

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