Kamala Harris has already damaged 2 Senate ties on COVID

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The Senate early Friday accredited a funds decision that is a key step towards fast-track passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid plan with out assist from Republicans. (Feb. 5) AP Home

WASHINGTON – Round 5 a.m. Friday within the nation’s capital, bleary-eyed senators who had spent hours debating a COVID-19 aid invoice appeared as much as see Vice President Kamala Harris presiding over the chamber.

Inside minutes, she would solid two necessary, tiebreaking votes on a funds decision, clearing the way in which for what Democrats hope is the fast passage of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package deal that President Joe Biden sees as essential to ramp up vaccine distribution and get America again on its financial ft.

Harris’ vote may presage a busy legislative function for her: The possible tiebreaking vote in an evenly break up Senate deeply divided over coverage. It is an motion seldom taken all through historical past, however it might transform an important instrument the Biden administration makes use of to maneuver appointments and priorities by way of Congress.  

As vp, Harris holds the title of Senate president, which, whereas largely ceremonial, means she can vote to interrupt ties on payments, court docket nominees and Cupboard appointments.

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Even earlier than Friday’s votes, her very presence had made an affect. When Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff unseated two Republicans in Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoff election, the Senate turned evenly break up between each events. Harris’ place mechanically gave Democrats management of the chamber.

She’s poised to reprise her function as tiebreaker within the coming weeks when the COVID-19 aid proposal, referred to as the American Rescue Plan, comes up for a last vote within the 50-50 Senate.

Tiebreaking alternatives may very well be restricted

Although Harris has the deciding vote within the break up Senate, she could not get a last say on a lot.

That is as a result of Harris solely has the authority to vote when the Senate is deadlocked at 50-50. Controversial measures resembling curbing oil and fuel growth, efforts to reverse a long time of systemic racial discrimination or increase well being care are prone to be blocked by Senate filibusters that require 60 votes to beat.

Harris will not be capable of take part in filibuster votes although she could also be a part of negotiations to seek out frequent floor. 

The COVID-19 aid plan is totally different as a result of it is being handed by way of a particular funds maneuver referred to as “reconciliation.”

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Vice President Kamala Harris on the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. (Picture: Andrew Harnik, AP)

That permits the Senate to go laws with a easy majority, bypassing Senate filibuster guidelines. The mechanism cannot be used to push by way of payments that do not have a direct fiscal affect – so the alternatives for the vp to interrupt ties on different points may very well be restricted.

Harris herself has publicly stated she hopes she will not be breaking too many ties.

“I intend to work tirelessly as your vp, together with, if essential, fulfilling this constitutional responsibility,” she wrote in a latest column for her hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. “On the identical time, it’s my hope that moderately than come to the purpose of a tie, the Senate will as a substitute discover frequent floor and do the work of the American individuals.”

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Vice presidents’ public prominence is essentially tied to their function as the subsequent in line ought to a president die, resign or be faraway from workplace. Much less obvious and extra uneven is the affect they will wield in advising presidents on key insurance policies and appointments.

However in a hyper-partisan period the place so many main points fall amongst occasion traces, Harris is poised to emerge as a consequential veep on legislative points by personally delivering on Biden administration priorities within the Senate.

Whereas Harris’ early-morning votes have cleared the way in which for a large aid package deal, in addition they fed into a rising GOP criticism that Biden’s pledge to succeed in throughout the aisle was an empty promise.

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives to swear in Pete Buttigieg as secretary of transportation within the White Home complicated on Wednesday. (Picture: Andrew Harnik, AP)

South Dakota GOP Sen. John Thune, the second strongest Republican within the Senate, stated there was no must jam the funds decision by way of on condition that Congress has negotiated and handed 5 prior COVID-19 aid packages with overwhelming bipartisan assist.

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“Now’s the time for President Biden to indicate whether or not he actually intends to stay as much as his inaugural pledge and unify our nation,” Thune stated in an announcement hours after the Senate vote. “Which means not simply discuss, however motion. It means working with lawmakers of each events to develop laws – not pushing solely Democrat measures.”

Biden has countered that the disaster calls for fast motion, telling Home Democrats throughout a non-public name Wednesday that paring his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan right down to the $618 billion proposed by 10 Senate Republicans was “not even within the playing cards.”

Vice presidents range on how typically they break ties

Regardless of the break up Senate, historical past suggests Harris may not get many alternatives to wield her tiebreaking vote over the subsequent 4 years.

There have been 268 events the place a vp has damaged a tie, a comparatively modest quantity contemplating the primary Senate session occurred in 1789. That is just a little multiple tiebreaking vote per yr on common, though there have been about 37 years when the nation had no vp.

John C. Calhoun, who served underneath each John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, broke probably the most ties (31), whereas John Adams, underneath George Washington, got here shut with 29. However 12 by no means solid one, together with Biden, who spent eight years as Barack Obama’s second in command.

Simply weeks into her time period, Harris already has extra damaged ties (two) than Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Walter Mondale, who every had one. 

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The latest vp, Mike Pence, broke 13 ties – probably the most by a Senate president in almost 150 years – despite the fact that Republicans had a minimum of a four-seat benefit throughout his 4 years in workplace.

As Pence’s instance suggests, ties aren’t solely confined to 50-50 Senates. Solely two of the eight tiebreakers Vice President Dick Cheney solid occurred when the chamber was evenly break up in 2001.

Joel Okay. Goldstein, a St. Louis College Regulation College professor and the creator of “The White Home Vice Presidency: The Path to Significance, Mondale to Biden,” expects that Harris would possibly outdo Pence given the even break up within the Senate, the rising polarization on Capitol Hill and the power to dam affirmation of judicial nominees and high administration appointees.

“There are only a few vice presidents who solid extra tiebreaking votes per yr than Pence did,” he stated. “So in the event you determine that the Senate is extra evenly divided a minimum of for the subsequent two years you suppose the percentages of her casting some tiebreakers can be better.”

Not all tiebreakers are the identical. With a rustic reeling from a pandemic and social unrest, Harris is already making a direct affect with Friday’s votes on COVID-19 aid.

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Harris may solid deciding vote on COVID-19 aid

Harris’ two tiebreaking votes have been every solid Friday morning, as soon as in favor of an modification and once more on passage of the general funds decision that cleared the way in which for the COVID-19 stimulus plan. 

Her subsequent alternative to interrupt a tie may very well be even larger: Ultimate passage of the $1.9 trillion package deal, maybe inside weeks.

To this point, no Senate Republican has expressed assist for the president’s plan, foreshadowing one other break up vote and one other look by Harris, who with one vote may give the Biden administration its first main legislative victory.

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If that occurs, Goldstein stated it could mark a “very consequential” vote by a vp in a chamber that has seen various necessary tiebreaking moments.

Calhoun’s vote in 1832 denied future president Martin Van Buren an ambassadorship to Britain. Al Gore’s vote in 1993 secured approval of President Invoice Clinton’s financial package deal funds that diminished the deficit and raised taxes on the wealthy. Pence’s vote in 2017 ensured passage of a measure giving tax breaks to households who home-school or ship their kids to personal or spiritual colleges.

The prospect of needing Harris to interrupt ties means Democrats may need to schedule key votes primarily based on the vp’s availability. Which may restrict her potential to journey however her function because the president of the Senate 51st vote carries key political advantages as nicely, Goldstein stated.

“If she will get to interrupt a vote on one thing that’s actually necessary to Democratic constituents,” he stated, “she will put that on her political resume, despite the fact that she’s merely appearing as an administration loyalist.”

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