Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday broke a 191-year-old record previously held by John C. Calhoun by casting yet another tie-breaking vote in the narrowly divided Senate.
Harris cast the final and deciding vote for cloture on the nomination of Loren L. AliKhan to be a district judge for the District of Columbia, her 32nd decisive vote since taking office in January 2021. She followed up hours later by breaking her 33rd tie in the vote on AliKhan’s confirmation.
Harris already held the record for tie-breaking votes in a single day — she cast four on May 11, 2022, alone. She also holds the record for most votes cast in the first year of a vice presidency, with 15. Next on that list was her predecessor, Mike Pence, with seven.
Before Tuesday, Harris last cast a tie-breaking vote on July 12, on a vote to end debate on the confirmation of Kalpana Kotagal to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. By the time Kotagal’s nomination came up for confirmation, there were absences, and the final vote was 49-47, so the vice president did not play a role.
When Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., was running for president, he and other senators were often absent, so there were fewer chances for the Senate to deadlock. Scott suspended his campaign on Nov. 12.
Still, with so much time remaining in her term, and with Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., planning to continue churning through President Joe Biden’s judicial and executive branch nominees, Harris likely will have plenty of chances to pad her lead. If not reelected, she would leave office on Jan. 20, 2025.
Harris’ vote on Tuesday was needed because Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., joined all 49 Republican senators in voting against cloture and the nomination.
AliKhan previously had bipartisan support for a local judgeship in D.C., but a Republican source pointed to her litigation background in support of local D.C. policies, including opposing efforts of a local church to meet outside during the COVID-19 pandemic. AliKhan was the solicitor general for the city prior to her confirmation to the local D.C. Court of Appeals.
With her 51-50 confirmation, AliKhan fills the seat on the D.C. federal bench opened by Judge Amy Berman Jackson taking senior status.
Harris presided over the chamber at the close of Tuesday’s historic vote, and Schumer presented the vice president with a golden gavel afterward.
“This is a historic day. Vice President Harris has cast more tie-breaking votes than anyone in America’s long and storied history,” Schumer said. “She’s done a great job, and without her tie-breaking votes, not just today is historic, we wouldn’t have the [Inflation Reduction Act], wouldn’t have had the [American] Rescue Plan. We wouldn’t have had so many of the good judges and appointees we’ve had.”
Schumer noted it was appropriate that Harris, the first woman and first minority to be vice president, has cast so many decisive votes for judicial nominees because two-thirds have been women or minorities. “Women!” Harris said in response.
“I’m honored. I am truly honored. And history, the history we have made, all of us, when I think about the tie-breaker votes … whether it be the Inflation Reduction Act and what that meant in terms of an historic investment in addressing the climate crisis, and what it has meant in terms of capping insulin at $35 a month,” she added. “What it has meant supporting small businesses and small-business owners. And of course today, what it has meant in terms of confirming our 161st judge to the federal bench.”
Harris exchanged words with several Democratic senators after the historic vote. But it was quickly back to business as she was exiting the Capitol. A reporter asked her about lawmakers’ ongoing struggles to pass an emergency spending measure to get more military aid to Ukraine and Israel.
“We absolutely need to pass funding for Ukraine, funding for Israel,” she said. “What we need to do around all of these issues is critically important.”
Avery Roe, Daniel Hillburn and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.