VP Kamala Harris is setting a milestone


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Kamala Harris’ vice presidency is proving to be the opposite of Joe Biden’s in a certain interesting and important way. This week, Vice President Harris achieved a milestone that should make anyone who wants to keep the United States as a democracy feel simultaneously grateful and concerned. It has to do with the Vice President’s role as President of the Senate and her ability to cast tiebreaking votes.

On Wednesday, Harris broke her 14th and 15th ties as Senate President, voting to end cloture for President Joe Biden’s nominee for Rachael Rollins as U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and then voting to confirm Rollins to that position. With her 14th tiebreaking vote, Harris edged out Mike Pence with more such votes than he cast in his entire four years in office.

As Harris pointed out to NBC News, “Every time I vote, we win.” Indeed, when Harris is needed for a vote, it means Democrats will succeed, and the fact this voting maneuver has already been used 15 times in this young administration is thus positive news. However, the abundant need for a Vice President’s tiebreaking vote must also be appreciated as alarming. It is an urgent reminder that the Democrats’ Senate majority is razor-thin and can easily vanish after next year’s midterm elections.

The current Veep recordholder for most tiebreakers is John C. Calhoun, who broke 31 ties over his seven years in office. If Harris continues at this rate, she will surpass Calhoun with an estimated 50 ties by the end of Biden’s first term. By contrast, Biden set something of the opposite record, becoming the only two-term Vice President who never broke a tie as President of the Senate.

Defying expectations, Sen. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff pulled off historic wins in Georgia’s runoff elections early this year after the Biden-Harris ticket won the presidency. This gave the Democrats narrow control of the U.S. Senate with Harris as its President. While it was a fortunate outcome (to put it mildly), it is not exactly a comfortable position. As 2022 approaches, we must resolve in the New Year to do what we can to grow Democratic margins in both the Senate and the House. Our democracy depends on it.

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