On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote in the Senate since being sworn into office on Jan. 20. Early Friday morning, the Senate passed a budget resolution, which marks a key step in fast-tracking the passage of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill without Republican support. The initial vote had been a 50-50 tie split down party lines, with Harris, at around 5:30 a.m. ET, breaking the tie by casting a vote in favor of the Democratic measure, which sends it to the House of Representatives for final approval, according to The Guardian.
The early Friday vote marked Harris' first tie-breaker in her role as president of the Senate. Harris was sworn in as the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian American person to become vice president on Jan. 20. As vice president, Harris also acts as president of the Senate. That role took on increased importance after she swore in Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate just hours after her own inauguration. Warnock and Osoff won in the Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia, with their wins marking an even 50/50 split in the Senate. As such, Harris casts a vote to break any ties.
When Harris resigned from her Senate post just days ahead of her inauguration, she wrote an op-ed for her local newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle. In the piece, she said she intended to fulfill her "constitutional duty" as the tiebreaker.
"Since our nation's founding, only 268 tie-breaking votes have been cast by a vice president. I intend to work tirelessly as your vice president, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty," she wrote, according to Newsweek. "At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people."
Her tie-breaking vote Friday marks a major advancement in additional coronavirus relief. The approval of the budget resolution will allow Democrats to move forward with the budget reconciliation process. Reconciliation, something Biden said he is "totally on board" with, will allow Democrats to bypass the Senate's 60-vote legislative filibuster. Democrats would have to win 10 Republicans over in the evenly split Senate without using reconciliation, something that would not be easy given GOP opposition to the $1.9 trillion proposal.