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Kamala Harris breaks nearly 200-year-old record for tiebreaker votes

After casting her 32nd tiebreaking vote in the Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris broke a nearly 200-year-old record held by an outspoken defender of slavery.

Harris voted to advance the confirmation of a new federal judge in Washington, D.C. The former senator cast her 33rd vote later that day securing Loren AliKhan’s role as a U.S. District Court judge.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the 32nd vote a "great milestone" and presented Harris with a golden gavel. The vice president responded to the recognition saying she is "truly honored."

A vice presidential duty

U.S Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Vice President Kamala Harris speak to reporters after Schumer awarded her a golden gavel outside of the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol on December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC.
U.S Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Vice President Kamala Harris speak to reporters after Schumer awarded her a golden gavel outside of the Senate chamber at the U.S. Capitol on December 5, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Casting tiebreaker votes are one of the few constitutional duties for vice presidents. Harris, the first Black woman in the role, has repeatedly had to break deadlocks between the Senate's closely divided Democrats and Republicans.

Harris has cast fewer tiebreaker voters in 2023 after Democrats added a single Senate seat late last year.

Who last held the record?

The seventh vice president, John C. Calhoun, last held the record for most tie-breaking Senate votes (31) during his eight years in the role from 1825 to 1832. Harris tied the record in July and surpassed it in the less than half the time it took for Calhoun to reach it.

The South Carolina-born Republican was a congressman, senator, the secretary of war and the secretary of state. He served as vice president under presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. He was a fierce defender of slavery who championed states’ rights.

Harris initially wanted to avoid making breaking many ties

Harris has previously said she hoped not to break too many ties. Most of her tiebreaking votes have involved President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees, including her historic one Tuesday.

Biden never broke any ties in the Senate during his time as vice president. Former Vice President Mike Pence broke 13 ties, which during the Donald Trump administration was the most in the Senate in nearly 150 years.

Harris broke her first tie in the Senate on Feb. 5, 2021, to adopt an amendment proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer on a budget resolution and later cast her second to vote on its final passage.

"On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative and the amendment is agreed to," Harris said that day.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kamala Harris breaks tiebreaker vote record held by slavery defender