Vice President Kamala Harris has reached another remarkable milestone in U.S. history by matching a 191-year-old record for casting tie-breaking votes. On July 12, Harris lent her support to the nomination of Kalpana Kotagal, an individual of Indian origin, to a federal agency, thus equalling the record set by Senator John C. Calhoun.
Harris, who made history as the first woman and person of color to hold the position in 2020, matched the record set by Calhoun, a Democratic-Republican who served as Vice President under Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson from 1825 to 1832. Harris exercised her voting power in the Senate on cloture for Kotagal’s nomination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an entity responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
With her tie-breaking vote in the Senate, breaking a 50-50 deadlock, Harris has now cast a total of 31 tie-breaking votes since assuming office, aligning with the record set by Calhoun. As mandated by the Constitution, the Vice President presides over the Senate and settles ties in crucial moments. In the current 118th Congress, Democrats hold 51 seats, while Republicans hold 49.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer commended Harris’s accomplishment, emphasizing its historic significance within the United States Senate. Schumer praised her for delivering decisive votes on momentous bills, including the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as her role in confirming federal judges who contribute to the balance of the judicial system. He expressed admiration for Harris’s exceptional execution of her duties as Vice President.
Throughout her tenure, Harris has exercised her tie-breaking authority on several occasions, including votes in support of the nominations of Natasha Merle and Araceli Martinez-Olguin as federal judges. In the initial two years of her vice presidency, when the Senate was evenly divided, Harris earned the nickname “101st Senator,” underscoring her influential role. Just three weeks into her term in February 2021, Harris cast her first tie-breaking vote. Her first year as Vice President saw her set a new record with 15 tie-breaking votes, surpassing the 13 cast by her predecessor, Mike Pence, during his entire vice presidency.
Kalpana Kotagal, the nominee endorsed by Harris, is the daughter of Indian immigrants. She serves as a partner at Cohen Milstein, specializing in civil rights and employment law. Kotagal is also the co-chair of the firm’s Hiring and Diversity Committee and gained recognition as a co-author of the pioneering legal framework known as the “Inclusion Rider.” Her expertise lies in matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and she advocates for disenfranchised individuals in employment and civil rights litigation involving laws such as Title VII, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Kamala Harris’s personal background is deeply connected to her commitment to diverse communities. Born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother named Shyamala Gopalan, who pursued higher education in the United States, Harris’s mother made significant contributions as a breast cancer researcher before succumbing to the disease in 2009. Harris’s father, Donald Harris, is a Jamaican American professor of economics.