Harris presides over Senate passage of bill assisting Americans fleeing Afghanistan
Vice President Harris on Tuesday presided over a pro forma session of the Senate to allow for the passage of a bill providing assistance to American citizens coming home from Afghanistan following the U.S. military withdrawal.
Harris briefly gaveled in the pro forma session on Tuesday morning. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) asked for immediate consideration of the House-passed Emergency Repatriation Assistance for Returning Americans Act. Without objections, the bill passed by unanimous consent, and Harris gaveled out after just a few minutes.
The bill would amend Section 1113 of the Social Security Act to allow for increased payments for temporary assistance to Americans returning from foreign countries.
It is rare for the vice president to preside over the Senate.
Harris has done so a handful of times to cast tie-breaking votes on nominees or legislation. The vice president last visited Capitol Hill to preside over the Senate as it passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill — a major accomplishment of the White House. On that occasion, Harris’s presence was ceremonial.
The passage of the Emergency Repatriation Assistance for Returning Americans Act came hours after the final U.S. troops flew out of Afghanistan, which brought an end to the United States’ 20-year war there. The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
Biden administration officials say that about 6,000 American citizens have been evacuated or otherwise departed from Afghanistan, and more than 123,000 civilians in total have been evacuated by U.S. military or coalition flights.
Between 100 and 200 Americans who want to leave remain in the country after U.S. troops left, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday. U.S. officials say they will continue to work to evacuate these Americans and Afghans who wish to leave through diplomatic means.