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Vice President Kamala Harris makes American history again with tie-breaking votes

Jennifer McClellan Kamala Harris
Photo: Office of Congresswoman Jennifer McClellan

Today, Vice President Kamala Harris made history again by casting her 31st vote to break a tie in the U.S. Senate.

The last vice president to do so was John C. Calhoun in 1832.

“My mother gave me great advice, which is that I may be the first to do many things,” she said. “I’m going to make sure I’m not the last.”

In 2020’s election, Harris was elected as the first woman and person of color to serve as vice president of the United States.

Calhoun reached the milestone in eight years, The Associated Press reported, but Harris reached it in 2.5 years.

“It really says more about our time, and our political climate, than it does about anything else,” Joel K. Goldstein, a vice presidential historian, told the AP. “Our politics is so polarized that, even on the sort of matters that in the past would have flown through, it takes the vice president to cast a tiebreaking vote.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York congratulated Harris before she exited the chamber.

The U.S. Constitution states that the vice president’s only constitutional duty is to break tie votes. The duty sometimes limits Harris’s travel opportunities. Before she took office, she wrote in the San Franscisco Chronicle: “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.”

The constitutional duty required her tie-breaking vote on the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.