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Jonathan Bernstein

Kamala Harris Is Breaking a Whole Lot of Ties

It’s been almost two centuries since a vice president has cast so many decisive votes on Capitol Hill, and her pace reveals a lot about how a 50-50 Senate actually works.

The 51st vote.

The 51st vote.

Photographer: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris voted six times to break Senate ties this week. That brings her total to 23 ties broken, a record pace. She’s already third all-time, behind only John C. Calhoun (31 from 1825-1832) and John Adams (29 from 1789-1797).

What she’s voted on tells an important story about the Senate. None of it has been regular legislation. It’s all on measures regarding the budget or other fiscal matters falling under the rubric of reconciliation, and then on nominations and procedural votes on nominations. Contrast that to George H.W. Bush when he was vice president in the 1980s: Six of his seven tiebreaking Senate votes were on amendments to bills or motions relating to amendments.