Vice President Kamala Harris set a brand new document Tuesday that underscored the carefully divided nature of contemporary politics, casting her thirty second tiebreaking vote within the Senate, essentially the most within the chamber’s historical past.
The vote superior the nomination of Choose Loren AliKhan to the U.S. District Courtroom in Washington.
Harris takes the tiebreaking document by surpassing John C. Calhoun, who served from 1825 to 1832 below Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, when the Senate was lower than half its present measurement. Calhoun was among the many fiercest defenders of slavery of his period.
“So glad she has exceeded him,” stated Donna Brazile, a Harris ally and former chief of the Democratic Nationwide Committee.
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As a 50-50 tiebreaker, the vice chairman may have an opportunity to lift her profile and present loyalty to Biden.
Harris has suffered from low ballot numbers and has didn’t excite Democratic activists who had hoped she would lead her get together’s subsequent era as soon as President Biden, now 81, leaves the political stage.
However no matter what occurs together with her future profession, she is now assured a number of locations in American historical past books. Not solely is she tops in tiebreakers, however she can be the primary lady, the primary Black lady and the primary Indian American particular person to serve in nationally elected workplace. Her husband, Douglas Emhoff, is the primary Jewish particular person in a primary or second household and the primary man to function second gentleman.
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Joel Goldstein, a legislation professor who has written extensively on vice presidential historical past, famous that Calhoun and others who held the workplace in earlier years spent most of their time presiding over the Senate, one thing fashionable vice presidents do solely when wanted to interrupt ties or to convey consideration to vital votes.
“It’s much more symbolic that the primary lady ever elected to nationwide workplace and the primary Black to function vice chairman, who has devoted a lot of her vice-presidential energies to creating America extra inclusive for historically marginalized teams, would move a document of John C. Calhoun, a slave proprietor and a number one proponent of slavery and white supremacy,” he stated.
After Harris gaveled out the vote, Sen. Majority Chief Charles E. Schumer of New York paused briefly to acknowledge the “historic” day.
“Each time responsibility has known as, Vice President Harris has answered, greater than every other vice chairman in our nation’s lengthy and storied historical past,” Schumer stated.
Harris selected to not converse from the rostrum and left the chamber shortly after casting her vote. Exterior the chamber, Schumer introduced her with a golden gavel.
Harris’ capacity to interrupt so many ties is in lots of respects an accident of historical past, the results of Democrats’ extraordinarily slender maintain on the Senate.
The Senate was tied 50-50 throughout Harris’ first two years in workplace, with Harris giving Democrats the bulk that allowed them to run committees and set the agenda. Democrats gained a seat within the 2022 midterm elections, giving the get together a small cushion and slowing the tempo of Harris’ tiebreaking.
Three senators — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont — are independents who caucus with Democrats.
Partisanship within the Senate has been at a contemporary excessive for greater than a decade. The minority get together votes as a unified bloc, and in opposition to routine issues, extra usually than in earlier eras. A lot of Harris’ votes have been to interrupt procedural ties or to advance Biden’s nominees for administration posts which may have been crammed with bipartisan help in earlier days.
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Nonetheless, Harris’ capacity to interrupt ties has been vital for her get together’s legislative agenda. She solid deciding votes to advance the $1.9-trillion stimulus invoice often called the American Rescue Plan in 2021 and the $700-billion Inflation Discount Act, Biden’s signature local weather invoice.
The function has put a highlight on Harris but it surely has additionally restricted her capacity to journey, since she has typically wanted to remain close to Washington in case the Senate will get twisted up. Presiding over the Senate and casting tiebreaking votes are among the many few roles vice presidents are given within the Structure, giving solely partial form to a job that Harris and lots of of her predecessors have struggled to outline.
Harris’ aides observe that her distinctive standing ensures that she is making historical past with virtually each act in workplace, whether or not visiting world leaders or making speeches. In Could, for instance, she turned the primary lady to provide the graduation handle at West Level, an honor routinely given to presidents, vice presidents and navy leaders who have until now all been male.
Regardless of their routine nature, a White Home official stated Harris is keen to make use of such moments to highlight the administration’s agenda, together with moments when she has presided over shedding votes to advance abortion rights and voting rights payments.