While a President is alive and well, the only real constitutional power the Vice President has is breaking ties in the Senate, a power that Vice President Harris has now used so often that she is a mere six votes away from breaking a 200-year-old record for using the Senate tiebreaker.
When Harris cast her 25th tiebreaking vote with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act on Sunday, moving her within six votes of the almost two-century-old record held by former Vice President John Calhoun.
The Constitution stipulates the vice president also serves as president of the Senate and has the authority to break ties, which has occurred with some regularity over the past year and a half, given the 50-50 makeup of the upper chamber.
Harris has already cast more tiebreakers than almost any other vice president, except for John Adams and Calhoun, who served from 1825 to 1832.
Calhoun has held the record of 31 tiebreaking votes since his tenure as vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. John Adams, who served as vice president for nearly eight years under George Washington, cast 29 tiebreakers.
Harris, however, has cast more tiebreakers than Adams or Calhoun at the equivalent times in their vice presidencies.
She has primarily broken ties to confirm President Biden’s nominees, although she has also appeared at the Senate dais for other 50-50 splits, like when she voted to begin debate on the American Rescue Plan.
Harris’s role as tiebreaker came into the spotlight again quite recently, when she broke the tie to advance a long-awaited $740 billion bill that includes provisions to raise corporate taxes, confront climate change, lower prescription drug costs, and reduce the federal deficit. Her vote was met with applause from the chamber.
The bill’s passage in the Senate first required the support of all 50 Democrats, given all Republicans were united in opposition.
With previous Democratic holdouts Manchin and Sinema on board both with a “yes” this time, passing with Harris’s tiebreaker, the reconciliation package now heads to the House for consideration.
How often Harris casts a deciding vote during the remainder of Biden’s term and if she breaks Calhoun’s record, will largely depend on the outcome of this year’s Senate midterm elections.
Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has predicted a close race for the Senate majority.
“I think it’s going to be very tight. We have a 50-50 nation. And I think when this Senate race smoke clears, we’re likely to have a very, very close Senate still, with us up slightly or the Democrats up slightly,” McConnell said Wednesday on Fox New’s “Special Report.”