Kamala Harris casts first tie-breaking vote in Senate

Kamala Harris

 

Historic vote by first woman, black and Indian American VP to help pass $1.9 trillion covid aid plan.

Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote in the Senate just after 5 a.m. Friday after an all-night ‘vote-a-rama’ to help pass a budget resolution green lighting coronavirus relief without Republican support.

Her historic vote marked the first time that a woman or African-American or Indian  American cast a tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 in the Senate.

Harris’s tie-breaking votes appear to be the earliest time in modern history that a vice president has had to break a tie, the Hill reported citing data from the Senate Historical Office.

Then-Vice President Pence broke his first tie on February 7, 2017.

Harris, who served in the Senate for roughly four years before stepping down to become vice president, arrived at the Capitol on Friday amid nearly 15 hours of amendments marathon known as vote-a-rama on the budget resolution.

Harris arrived in the chamber, swapping out with Democratic senator Chris Murphy, who had been presiding. The two exchanged an elbow bump and chatted briefly, the Hill said.

Harris then presided over the Senate for three votes, breaking ties on two of them. She cast her first tie-breaking vote on a final amendment from Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders.

The Hill cited Republicans as saying the Democratic proposal stripped out three of their amendments and opposed it resulting in a 50-50 tie.

“On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative and the amendment is agreed to,” Harris said.

Harris then cast a second tie-breaking vote on the final passage of the budget resolution. Every Democrat voted for the proposal, while all Republicans voted against it. Because the Senate is evenly split 50-50 that resulted in the tie.

Schumer thanked Harris for helping them pass the budget resolution after the votes, the Hill said.

“Madam Vice President … thank you so much for being part of this first big step to putting our country back on the road to recovery and we very much appreciate you being here,” Schumer said.

Several senators from both parties including Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sanders, Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) stopped to chat with Harris while she was presiding over the chamber. Harris stood to hug Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Hill said.

The resolution includes instructions for crafting the coronavirus aid bill under reconciliation, a tool that will allow the Biden proposal to bypass a 60-vote filibuster in the Senate.

The Senate budget resolution would speed passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus pandemic aid plan with just 51 votes in the Senate, Politico noted.

Once the House approves the Senate’s tweaks, a total of 25 committees across both chambers will get to work writing the legislative flesh to enact Biden’s plan.

The plan includes sending out a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans, boost the weekly federal unemployment benefit to $400 through September and more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, on top of hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to states, communities and schools.

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