Historic Achievement Underscores Divided Nature of Modern Politics
WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris made history on Tuesday by casting her 32nd tiebreaking vote in the Senate, setting a new record that highlights the closely divided nature of modern politics. This vote advanced the nomination of Judge Loren AliKhan to the U.S. District Court in Washington, solidifying Harris’s place in American history books.
Harris Surpasses John C. Calhoun’s Record
Harris’s 32nd tiebreaking vote surpassed the previous record held by John C. Calhoun, who served as Vice President from 1825 to 1832. Calhoun, a staunch defender of slavery and white supremacy, held the record when the Senate was much smaller in size. Harris’s accomplishment was celebrated by her ally, Donna Brazile, and other supporters.
A Trailblazer in American Politics
Regardless of her current poll numbers and criticism, Harris has secured her place in history. She not only holds the tiebreaking record but is also the first woman, first Black woman, and first Indian American person to serve in nationally elected office. Additionally, her husband, Douglas Emhoff, is the first Jewish person in a first or second family and the first man to serve as second gentleman.
The Symbolism of Breaking Calhoun’s Record
Harris’s achievement holds symbolic significance. As a vice president dedicated to making America more inclusive for marginalized groups, she surpassed the record of Calhoun, a slave owner and advocate of slavery and white supremacy. This milestone further emphasizes the changing landscape of American politics.
Recognition and Commemoration
After Harris cast her vote, Senator Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer acknowledged the historic nature of the moment. Schumer highlighted Harris’s commitment to answering the call of duty and presented her with a golden gavel. However, Harris chose not to speak from the podium and left the chamber shortly after the vote.
An Accident of History
Harris’s ability to break so many ties is partially a result of Democrats’ narrow majority in the Senate. With the Senate tied 50-50 during her first two years in office, Harris’s tiebreaking votes provided Democrats with the majority needed to run committees and set the agenda. The recent midterm elections gave Democrats a slight cushion, slowing the pace of Harris’s tiebreaking.
The Partisan Landscape of the Senate
The Senate’s high level of partisanship has contributed to the significance of Harris’s tiebreaking votes. In recent years, the minority party has voted as a unified bloc, opposing routine matters more frequently than in the past. Many of Harris’s tiebreaking votes have been to break procedural ties or advance President Biden’s nominees for administration posts.
A Spotlight on Harris’s Role
Harris’s role as the tiebreaker has put her in the spotlight, but it has also limited her ability to travel. She often needs to stay near Washington in case the Senate becomes deadlocked. Presiding over the Senate and casting tiebreaking votes are among the few constitutional responsibilities given to vice presidents, making it a challenging role to define.
Continued Impact and Advocacy
Despite the routine nature of her actions, Harris’s unique status ensures that she continues to make history with every act in office. Whether it is visiting world leaders, giving speeches, or presiding over losing votes, she uses these moments to spotlight the administration’s agenda and advocate for issues such as abortion rights and voting rights.