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 Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarah Palin's Version of the Constitution: Palin told a 3rd-grader Vice President in charge of the Senate

  Read hereAsked by a third-grader what a vice president does, Republican candidate Sarah Palin responded that the vice president is the president's "team mate" but also "in charge of the Senate" and "can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes."

The subject of the vice president's duties came up as Palin sat for an interview with KUSA-TV in Denver, which has a feature called "Question from the Third Grade." The interviewer asked, "Brandon Garcia wants to know, 'What does the vice president do?'"

"That's a great question, Brandon, and a vice president has a really great job, because not only are they there to support the president's agenda, they're like the team member, the team mate to that president," Palin said.

"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," she said.

While aimed at a typical 8-year-old, Palin's explanations oversimplify the Constitution's definition of the duties of the vice president and don't match the office's traditional role in Senate activities.

The vice president's main duty is to replace the president if the president dies, resigns, is removed from office or can no longer carry out his or her duties for other reasons. The Constitution names the vice president as the president of the Senate but allows the vice president to cast a vote only to break a tie.

The vice president, as a member of the executive branch of the government, has no official role in developing legislation or determining how it is presented to or debated by the Senate, which is part of the legislative branch. In all meaningful ways, the leader of the majority party runs the Senate.

Traditionally, the vice president appears in the Senate for ceremonial events and in case of a tie vote. Although the vice president can preside over the Senate, vice presidents have left that day-to-day chore to senators themselves. In the past, each president has determined the role of the vice president in an administration.

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin has been criticized for her response Monday to a question from a third grader concerning the role of the vice president.

Palin's claim that the vice president is "in charge of" the Senate has garnered the most ire, with critics casting it as reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of the vice presidential role.

Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, told Horserace that the only power specifically outlined in the Constitution for a vice president is to preside over the Senate and have a vote in case of a tie. No further formal policy making roles were specified, Shapiro said, because when the Constitution was drafted, the vice president was the runner up for the presidency, and was expected to come from a different faction or party.

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