By Stacy M. Brown
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, Vice President Kamala Harris broke the previous record set by John C. Calhoun in the 19th century for the most tie-breaking votes cast in the U.S. Senate. Harris has now cast 32 tie-breaking votes, eclipsing Calhoun’s record of 31 during his tenure as vice president from 1825 to 1832.
The latest tiebreaker occurred during the confirmation of Loren Alikhan as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia. As vice president, Harris serves as the president of the Senate, granting her constitutional authority to break ties.
Harris’s accomplishment is noteworthy not only for its historical significance but also in the context of the current political landscape. The U.S. Senate has been narrowly divided throughout the Biden administration, comprising 48 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and three independents. Of the independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine caucus with Democrats, while Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party in 2022 to register as an independent.
The surge in tie-breaking votes contrasts with previous administrations, as former Vice President Mike Pence cast 13 tie-breaking votes, while President Joe Biden did not cast any during his vice presidential tenure in the eight years of the Obama administration.
In a speech on the Senate floor earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer praised her historic achievement. Schumer emphasized the circumstances of Harris’s tenure, characterized by a closely divided Senate and a highly partisan environment.
He acknowledged the weighty responsibility placed on the vice president as president of the Senate, noting that Harris has played a crucial role in passing pivotal legislation. From the American Rescue Plan to the Inflation Reduction Act and the confirmation of federal judges, Schumer commended Harris for her contributions to the functioning of the Senate.
“When it’s mattered most, Vice President Harris has provided the decisive vote on some of the most historic bills of modern times,” Schumer asserted. “All of us thank her for making the work of the Senate possible.”