As the first woman or person of color to hold the position of vice president, Kamala Harris made history once more on Wednesday when she tied the record for the most tie-breaking votes in the U.S. Senate.
With her 31st vote, Kalpana Kotagal's appointment to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was advanced. John C. Calhoun, who held the position from 1825 to 1832, was the only other vice president to receive this many votes.
Harris later told reporters, "I think there's still so much that we have to do. It is a moment.
"My mother gave me great advice, which is that I may be the first to do many things," the woman continued. "I'll make sure I don't end up being the last,"
Harris tied the record in 2.5 years, as opposed to Calhoun, who took 8 years to reach his number. It's a reflection of her particular circumstances, which include a Senate that is deeply divided along partisan lines.
On June 21, 2023 in Washington, DC, Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to the Senate Chamber of the U.S. Capitol and breaks the tie in the Senate's vote on the nomination of a district judge. In the vote to nominate Natasha C. Merle as a U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York, Harris broke a tie.
GETTY IMAGES / KEVIN DIETSCH
Joel K. Goldstein, a vice presidential historian, remarked that it "really says more about our time, and our political climate, than it does about anything else." Even on issues that in the past would have passed without a vote, our politics are so divisive that the vice president must cast the deciding vote.
The event was not very formal or noteworthy. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, congratulated Harris after she spent only a short time in the chamber and read a short script to record her vote.
One of the vice president's only obligations under the Constitution is to preside over the Senate and break ties. It is a "immense burden," according to Schumer, who also noted that Harris has "carried out her duties with supreme excellence" despite "all the other demands she faces" at work.
After the midterm elections, when Democrats increased their margin of victory from 50 to 51 votes, Harris had anticipated receiving a break from that position.
However, external factors came into play. The recently elected Democrat from Pennsylvania, Sen. John Fetterman, was admitted to the hospital for mental depression. Democratic senator from California Dianne Feinstein was hospitalized after developing shingles.
Harris' string of tiebreakers was rekindled by the absences. She assisted in the confirmation of two federal judges earlier this year, one in Massachusetts and the other in California.
Although Harris' presence may still be necessary for contentious nominations, such as the one on Wednesday, both Fetterman and Feinstein have rejoined the Senate.
When Harris was appointed vice president, she didn't appear anxious to use tiebreaker votes to make history. She expressed her goal in the San Francisco Chronicle before entering office, writing, "It is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people."
However, tiebreakers quickly took center stage in her work. The assignment may occasionally be aggravating because it restricted her travel and kept her bound to erratic occurrences on Capitol Hill.
The American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief program, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which restricted the pricing of prescription pharmaceuticals and offered financial incentives for sustainable energy, were two examples of legislation on which Harris had a deciding vote.
Because it links her to several significant achievements of the Biden administration, Goldstein called it a godsend.