Kamala Harris has set another record in US history when she matched a 191-year-old record of casting tie-breaking votes as a vice president and backed the nomination of Indian-origin Kalpana Kotagal to be a member of a federal agency.
Harris, who made history as the first woman or person of colour in 2020, equalled the record held by Senator John C Calhoun, a Democratic-Republican who served as vice president to John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson from 1825 to 1832.
On Wednesday, Harris, 58, cast her vote on cloture for the nomination of Kotagal, a diversity, equity, and inclusion expert to serve as a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Harris broke a 50-50 tie on a vote in the Senate on the nomination of Kotagal, to bring her total of tie-breaking votes cast as vice president since she assumed office to 31.
That matches the record set by Calhoun, a Democratic-Republican and an avowed proponent of states’ rights and slavery.
Under the Constitution, the role of the vice president is to preside over the Senate and break ties in case of a deadlock in the upper house.
In the current 118th Congress, Democrats hold 51 seats and Republicans have 49 seats.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hailed Harris’s accomplishment on the floor on Wednesday evening.
“I want to note that this is a history-making moment for the United States Senate,” he was quoted as saying by the Hill newspaper.
“When it’s mattered most, Vice President Harris has provided the decisive vote on some of the most historic bills of modern times, from the American Rescue Plan to the Inflation Reduction Act to so many federal judges who now preside and provide balance on the federal bench.
“She’s carried out her duties with supreme excellence,” he added.
She voted on June 21 to break a 50-50 tie on advancing Natasha Merle’s nomination to serve as a judge for the Eastern District of New York and a 48-48 tie on confirming Araceli Martinez-Olguin to serve as a judge for the North District of California.
In the first two years of Harris’ tenure as vice president, the Senate was evenly split, making the nickname of “101st Senator” a reality.
Harris cast her first tiebreakers just three weeks into the job in February 2021. Fifteen tiebreaker votes in her first year as vice president was also a record, passing Mike Pence’s 13 in all four years on the job, the Politico newspaper reported.
Kotagal, who is the daughter of immigrants from India, is a partner at Cohen Milstein, a member of the firm’s Civil Rights and Employment practice group, and co-chair of the firm’s Hiring and Diversity Committee.
She is the co-author of the seminal legal template ‘Inclusion Rider’.
Kotagal is also a diversity, equity and inclusion expert, and represents disenfranchised people in employment and civil rights litigation involving issues related to Title VII, Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, the White House has said.
Harris was born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother Shyamala Gopalan, who was born in Chennai before she moved to the US for further study. Gopalan was a breast cancer researcher who died of cancer in 2009. Her father Donald Harris is a Jamaican American professor of economics.