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Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc./Getty Images

While Democrats relish Kamala Harris' power to cast tie-breaking Senate votes in their favor, it has the potential to define her as vice president — and as a possible 2024 presidential contender.

Why it matters: As Senate president and a 51st vote for Democrats, Harris faces the prospect of weighing in on specific bills she would have avoided after leaving Congress. Her domestic and international travel — a key perk for the vice presidency — also could be inhibited by the need to remain close to Washington.

What they're saying: "That could be a game changer," said former Sen. Tom Daschle, "from the perspective of creating a political narrative down the road."

  • A slim Senate majority allowed Vice President Mike Pence to cast more tie-breaking votes — 13 — than any vice president in the modern era, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • One vote confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Another backed a federal judge, and a third allowed for a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, which ultimately failed.
  • Harris will now assume the role during only the second 50-50 split Senate during the past 60 years. Congress is facing the prospect of major legislation addressing the coronavirus, comprehensive immigration reform and voting rights.
  • While Harris would have a perspective on each as a member of a presidential administration, she may now have to cast roll-call votes just like she has during her four years as a senator.

While Joe Biden hasn't said he won't seek a second term, those votes would be fodder for potential Harris opponents in both the 2024 primaries and general election.

Daschle, who was both majority and minority leader in the last split Senate (during the first two years of the George W. Bush presidency), said potential tie votes are still relatively rare.

  • Looking ahead, the South Dakotan predicted Democrats would unify around legislation to avoid a member voting with the Republicans, a process of conciliation with progressives and other party constituencies that would benefit Harris politically.

Harris spokesperson Sabrina Singh added that Biden's long tenure on the Senate "coupled with her relationships will strengthen the Biden-Harris administration's ability to pass bipartisan legislation."

50-50 flashback: Daschle said the fate of the upcoming Senate will be driven by the relationship between future Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • "I had the good fortune to work with just an extraordinarily good Republican leader, Trent Lott. We became very close friends, in part because we were thrown together in that way and remain very close friends today."
  • "I don't know the degree to which that relationship will exist with the two leaders today, but that will be a big factor."

Be smart: Biden has deliberately sought to avoid embarrassing Republicans aligned with President Trump, hoping to create a productive working relationship.

  • He also has touted his long relationship with McConnell from their shared days in the Senate, which could smooth over any of the daily sniping occurring between him and Schumer.

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy
Scoop

White House plots "full-court press" for $1.9 trillion relief plan

National Economic Council director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden White House is deploying top officials to get a wide ideological spectrum of lawmakers, governors and mayors on board with the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The broad, choreographed effort shows just how crucially Biden views the stimulus to the nation's recovery and his own political success.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

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