Kamala Harris to hold the tie-breaker vote in split Senate

The results of the special runoff election in Georgia last week would have normally still been making headlines, given the implications it has for America moving forward, but it seemed to be swept under the rug given the news of the Capitol riots just a day later.

According to the Washington Examiner, it’s now time to focus on Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who is officially going to hold tie-breaking power in the U.S. Senate, paving the way for President-elect Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress to push through untold amounts of progressive legislation in Biden’s first two years. 

What does it mean?

Democrat Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Ralphael Warnock’s victories mean that the upper chamber will be split among Republicans and Democrats, with each party holding 50 seats, which means each side gets 50 votes for party-line legislation.

Harris’s other role, aside from holding the vice presidency, is the title of the president of the Senate, which is usually not mentioned and is mostly ceremonial. However, with a 50-50 party split in a Senate during a time in which the country is extremely politically divided, her power increases exponentially.

“Depending on how it plays out, she will cast tie-breaking votes on some of the most important pieces of legislation of the early Biden administration,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to the former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, according to The Denver Gazette.

However, Manley explained that it’s not as if Harris will be using her power on every legislative vote, as some pieces of legislation — the most controversial — will have a 60-vote threshold under legislative filibuster rules.

He went on to explain that Harris’ tie-breaking power will likely first be used “on the so-called reconciliation bills that will be used to pass some of [Biden’s] tax and spending proposals.”

Republicans’ role

It’s true that Harris gives Democrats the push that would be needed to decide a number of legislative pieces that require a simple majority, but with President Donald Trump out of office, there could be a number of Republican senators who might be talked into siding with Dems at times.

Republican senators like Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) could be persuaded to side with Democrats on certain issues, given their heavily centrist ideologies, leaving Harris free to focus on other tasks specific to the vice presidency.

The same can be said for the other side of the aisle, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) expressing concerns about passing another round of COVID-19 stimulus payments. Republican senators will be lobbying Democrats just as hard as Democrats will be attempting to persuade Republicans to join their cause on certain issues.

Mike McKenna, a veteran GOP strategist and former deputy legislative affairs director in Trump’s administration pointed out that Harris’s tie-breaking power will have her spending much more time in the Senate than a vice president usually would.

“Vice president is a tough job in the best of circumstances, and getting tangled up in Senate politics is going to make it harder for her to carve out on her own,” McKenna said. “It’s going to staple her to the Senate in a way I’m sure she’d rather not be.”

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