Vice President Kamala Harris makes history with deciding votes in the Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) Kamala Harris, who made history as the first woman or person of color to hold the office of vice president, made history again Wednesday by tying the record for most tiebreaker votes in the U.S. Senate .

The vote, his 31st, anticipated Kalpana Kotagal’s appointment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The only other vice president to choose so many was John C. Calhoun, who served as vice president from 1825 to 1832.

It’s a moment and I think there’s still so much to do, Harris told reporters afterward.

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My mother gave me great advice, which is that I could be the first to do many things, she added. I’ll make sure I’m not the last.

Unlike Calhoun, who spent eight years racking up his total, Harris tied the record in two and a half years. It is a reflection of its unique circumstances, with a tightly divided Senate and a distinctly partisan atmosphere.

It truly says more about our time and political climate than anything else, said Joel K. Goldstein, a longtime vice president. Our politics is so polarized that, even on the kind of issues that might have been overlooked in the past, it takes the vice president to cast a decisive vote.

The occasion was unmemorable or particularly ceremonial. Harris spent just a few minutes in the courtroom, reciting a short script to record his vote, and then was congratulated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York.

Under the Constitution, presiding over the Senate and breaking ties is one of the vice president’s only constitutional duties. Schumer described it as an immense burden and said that Harris performed his duties with supreme excellence amidst all the other demands he faces in his work.

Harris expected to get a reprieve from that role after the midterm elections, when Democrats expanded their majority from 50 to 51 votes.

However, circumstances intervened. Senator John Fetterman, a newly elected Democrat from Pennsylvania, was hospitalized for clinical depression. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, contracted shingles and was also hospitalized.

The absences revived Harris’ tiebreak streak. Earlier this year he helped confirm two federal judges, one in Massachusetts and the other in California.

Both Fetterman and Feinstein returned to the Senate, but contested nominations can still require Harris to be present, as did Wednesday.

Harris didn’t seem eager to make history with tiebreaker votes when she became vice president. Before taking office, wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that it is my hope that instead of getting to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people.

But tiebreakers quickly became a staple part of his job. The task could prove frustrating at times, limiting her travels and keeping her tethered to unpredictable events on Capitol Hill.

However, it also meant that Harris cast decisive votes on issues such as the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief measure, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which capped prescription drug costs and created financial incentives or clean energy.

It’s a blessing, Goldstein said, because he associates it with some important achievements of the Biden administration.


Megerian reported from Helsinki. Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

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