Palin thinks the VP is in charge of the Senate

Even if we give her the benefit of the doubt about being in charge as simple misstatement about be the tie-breaking vote in case of a tie, the notion that the VP can “really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes” cannot be attributed to anything except willful ignorance. This person is magnificently, dangerously, uninformed about how our government works, and should have never, ever, been chosen as McCain’s running mate. That she was chosen is certain evidence that he lacks the judgement to be preisdent.

Art I, Sec. 3 of the US Constitution provides that the Vice-President is President of the Senate. As president of the Senate, he (or she) is the presiding officer. Because the presiding officer has little substantive power, historically, the practice has been for the sitting VP to seldom exercise this power. But theoretically, the new VP could choose to exercise that power every single day the Senate is in session (unless the President has been impeached, in which case the Chief Justice of the United States presides).

It’s not a huge stretch, then, to say that the VP is “in charge” of the Senate, especially when answering a third grader. It’s certainly better than John Nance Garner’s description; Garner served as VP for FDR’s first two terms and famously described the job as “not worth a bucket of warm piss.”

Absolutely. He should have picked Michele Bachmann. (Oh, God, what would that have been like?)

That depends on the rules of the Senate. And whence come those rules…?

(colloquially known as the “Pat John Adams on the head and tell him not to bother us” clause)

So how about the part about “get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes”? Is there any way to spin that other than she is clueless about the power of the VP to effect change in policy under debate by the Senate?


The Senate can certainly make it’s own rules, but those rules may not contradict the Constitution itself. The Senate could not forbid the VP from exercising his power as presiding officer when the Senate is in session.

Wait a second.

Dick Cheney is widely reviled around here because, according to the prevailing wisdom, he’s been responsible for a lot of policy changes. (Not good ones, I expect the chorus would insist, but certainly substantial ones).

So why is Palin’s view that the VP can get in and help make policy changes a wrong one?

And as enumerated by the Constitution, what are the powers of the presiding officer of the Senate?

True. But as far as “spit/piss” there some doubt he said either:

The “piss” version didn’t show up until 1978, making it somewhat doubtful.

Cheney has not made any policy changes in the Senate. He has the president’s ear, and excercises his influence over the executive branch only. Name one Senate policy change he has influenced [other than casting tie breaking votes].

I think the VP also presides over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral College.

Simply that: to preside.

Now, the Constitution does not specify precisely what “to preside” means. But it has an ordinary meaning in parliamentary practice – and in fact, until the 1960s, the VP did normally preside over the Senate daily. This meant ruling on points of order, recognizing speakers, gavelling sessions open and closed – what a presiding officer does.

The Senate can’t remove that role by internal rule; it’s a Constitutional role. I know it confuses you guys to discuss a Constitutional provision that’s actually printed in ink, on the paper, instead of found wafting in the penumbras and emanations of the document, but there it is.

Palin doesn’t know what the fuck she’s talking about.

Next topic?

What you are asking is, ‘Apart from where Sarah Palin was correct, where was she wrong?’

Sarah Palin’s statement is accurate and correct. You, on the other hand, are not.


What exactly does “presiding” mean? It doesn’t mean “vote on laws”, does it?

You tell me – what has Cheney done? Seems to me that blame for the Patriot Act was lobbed in his direction a time or two, to pick one example. Now, you may argue that his role was via the executive branch and not the Senate, but either you admit that he was a powerless figure with respect to legislation getting passed by the Senate, and that eight years of Cheney hatred were based on a lie, or you acknowledge that he had substantial influence and quibble about how direct it was.

If you’re answering a third grader, it seems to me an acceptable bit of shorthand to say what Palin said – the VP has (or can have) influence in what legislation the Senate passes, even if it’s only to signal that the legislation will be vetoed if it passes, so don’t bother unless it’s 2/3rds majority-proof.

This meant ruling on points of order, recognizing speakers, gavelling sessions open and closed – what a presiding officer does.]

Must get dizzy from all that spinning…

Translation: can’t refute any point being made, so I’ll just call it “spinning” and retire.

And presiding is enumerated quite precisely: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided. " No more, no less. To presume that the position of President of the Senate has any power beyond the tie-breaking vote is imagine authority that is not in evidence.