Richard Cohen has some chuckles at Sarah Palin’s expense in his column today:
She found whole new powers for the vice president by misreading the Constitution, if she ever read it at all. . . . Did [the editors of the Wall Street Journal] wonder what in the world Palin meant by the authority she found in the Constitution to increase the role of “the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate”? What? Oh, never mind. The Journal chivalrously ignored the matter. Palin is excused from knowing the limits of the office she seeks.
Well, the laugh’s on Cohen, who has no excuse for being such a nitwit after so many years in Washington. A fuller quotation of what Palin said in last week’s debate is this: “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 . . .”
There’s only one role the vice president has under the Constitution other than waiting in the wings in case he has to become president, and that is to preside over the Senate. In that capacity he has as much or as little power as a presiding officer as the Senate chooses to give him. The Senate (with him in the chair if he wishes to assume it) writes its own rules, as does the House. The VP could have more power in that chair if he can convince the Senate to give it to him. He can’t just assert it, but Governor Palin didn’t say he could. (Sorry, I’m just not going to write “or she” every time I refer to an office that I sincerely hope Sarah Palin holds in January.) Everything Palin said is exactly right.
And, of course, any VP can exert more power than most of them have, by just showing up and being president of the Senate on a more regular basis. But that’s a largely dull and thankless task on most days.