The vice president has provided the decisive vote in the Senate 32 times, in a reflection of Democrats’ narrow majority and broader polarization in politics.
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Mr. Schumer presented Ms. Harris with a golden gavel to commemorate her record-breaking vote in the Senate. The previous record was held by John C. Calhoun, who was vice president from 1825 to 1832.
Vice President Kamala Harris broke the centuries-old record on Tuesday for the most tiebreaking votes cast by a vice president in the Senate, underscoring Democrats’ tenuous hold on the majority and the deep polarization gripping Congress.
It was the latest bit of history to be made by Ms. Harris, a former senator from California and the first woman, African American and Asian American to serve as vice president. She cast her 32nd tiebreaking vote on Tuesday, beating the previous record of 31 set nearly 200 years ago by John C. Calhoun, who was vice president from 1825 to 1832.
“Today is historic,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor after Ms. Harris cast her vote. “The record Vice President Harris sets today is significant not just because of the number, but because of what she’s made possible with tiebreaking votes.”
Mr. Schumer presented Ms. Harris with a golden gavel to commemorate the milestone after she provided the 51st vote to move ahead with confirming Judge Loren AliKhan to the U.S. District Court in Washington. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, broke with his party and voted to block the move, leaving the chamber in a 50-50 tie and prompting Ms. Harris to step in.
While Democrats and the White House celebrated the move, the occasion was the latest reminder of the deep polarization in Congress and the Democrats’ razor-thin Senate majority that has forced Ms. Harris to provide the decisive vote more times in just under three years than any other vice president. With slim margins of control in Congress and a substantial domestic agenda, Mr. Biden has relied on Ms. Harris for the decisive votes to advance major legislation including his sweeping pandemic aid plan and his expansive health, climate and tax law, the Inflation Reduction Act.
Five of her tiebreakers advanced the confirmation of federal judges.
The vice president serves as the president of the Senate, giving her the constitutional power to break ties in the 100-member body. Since 1789, 300 tiebreaking votes have been cast. Former Vice President Mike Pence provided 13 tiebreakers while in office, and President Biden cast none while serving as vice president.
“It is only fitting that Vice President Harris — the first woman, the first Black American, and the first South Asian American elected vice president — has set a new standard and brought us into the 21st century,” Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the assistant House Democratic leader, said in a statement noting that Mr. Calhoun had been a major proponent of slavery. “This historic moment should serve as a monument to the significant progress we have made under the Biden-Harris administration and a testament to this administration’s promise to deliver on behalf of the American people.”
Ms. Harris entered the chamber Tuesday afternoon wearing an emerald green pantsuit and shared a hug with her former colleague Senator John Hickenlooper, Democrat of Colorado, who was presiding over the Senate, before they swapped positions on the dais and she cast her history-making vote.
She had hoped that last year’s elections — which gave her party a 51-to-49 edge — would provide her some more breathing space to carve out her own lane as vice president. Late last year, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona left the Democratic Party to become an independent, but she often still votes with Democrats. Ms. Harris has been forced to remain tethered to Washington, never more than 24 hours away from the Capitol when the Senate was in session in case her vote was needed.
“Every time duty has called, Vice President Harris has answered — more than any other vice president in our nation’s long and storied history,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor as Ms. Harris presided on Tuesday. “This is a great milestone, and yours is even a greater legacy.”
Kayla Guo is a reporter in Washington covering Congress. She is part of the 2023-24 New York Times Fellowship class. More about Kayla Guo
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