First Indian American vice president matches the record John C. Calhoun, vice president from 1825 to 1832
Kamala Harris, who made history as the first Indian American and first African American woman as vice president, has made history again by matching the record for most tiebreaking votes in the Senate.
Her 31st such vote, on Wednesday, advanced the nomination of Kalpana Kotagal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The only other vice president to cast so many such votes was John C. Calhoun, vice president from 1825 to 1832.
â€œIt is a moment and I think that thereâ€™s still so much left that we have yet to do,â€ Harris, daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father told reporters afterward. â€œMy mother gave me great advice, which is that I may be the first to do many things,” she added. “Iâ€™m going to make sure Iâ€™m not the last.â€
Unlike Calhoun, who spent eight years accumulating his total, Harris reached 31 in 2 1/2 years. It’s a reflection of her unique circumstances, with a narrowly divided Senate and a sharply partisan atmosphere.
Harris’s predecessor Mike Pence cast a total of 13 tiebreaking votes during his tenure. Interestingly, President Joe Biden, who served as a President Barack Obama’s deputy, did not cast a single tiebreaking vote.
â€œIt really says more about our time, and our political climate, than it does about anything else,” AP quoted as Joel K. Goldstein, a vice presidential historian. â€œOur 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.â€
The occasion was hardly memorable or particularly ceremonial, AP noted. Harris spent only a few minutes in the chamber, reciting a brief script to record her vote, and then received congratulations from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
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Under the Constitution, presiding over the Senate and breaking ties is one of the only constitutional duties of the vice president. Schumer described it as an â€œimmense burden,â€ and he said Harris has â€œcarried out her duties with supreme excellenceâ€ in the midst of â€œall the other demands she faces” in her job.
Harris did not seem eager to make history with tiebreaker votes when she became vice president. Before taking office, she wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that “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.â€
But tiebreakers swiftly became a core part of her job.