Harris casts tiebreaking vote to advance Biden nominee

Vice President Harris cast a tiebreaking vote on Wednesday to advance a controversial Biden nominee.

The Senate was split 50-50 on whether to advance the nomination of Colin Kahl, President Biden’s pick to be under secretary of Defense for policy, to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

The tiebreaking vote was Harris’s fourth overall as vice president but her first for a Biden nominee, according to data from the Office of the Secretary of the Senate.

“On this vote, the ‘yeas’ are 50, the ‘nays’ are 50. The Senate being equally divided, the vice president votes in the affirmative, and the motion is agreed to. … The nomination will be placed on the executive calendar. Thank you,” Harris said while presiding over the chamber on Wednesday.

Harris elbow-bumped Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) on her way up to the presiding officer’s chair and later chatted with Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), all of whom served with her in the Senate.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who was in the chamber to give a speech on Biden’s infrastructure plan, referenced Harris’s presence before diving into his speech.

“I welcome the vice president, the president of the Senate, to our chamber this evening,” Portman said from the floor.

Kahl is the third Biden nominee to have to be discharged to the Senate floor after a deadlocked vote in committee.

Senate Democrats previously discharged, and subsequently confirmed, Vanita Gupta to the No. 3 Justice Department post. Harris was on hand on Wednesday to help confirm Gupta, but because Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) broke with Republicans to support the nominee, Harris ultimately did not need to cast a vote.

The Senate Armed Services Committee earlier voted 13-13 along party lines for Kahl’s nomination.

Republicans unified against Kahl after criticizing him for tweets lambasting the Trump administration as well as his support for the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.

During his confirmation hearing, Kahl apologized for the “disrespectful” language in his tweets. He also pledged to approach the Pentagon job in a nonpartisan way, saying his past government service demonstrates his ability to do so.

But Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) argued that the unified GOP opposition on the Senate Armed Services Committee was “rare” and that Kahl did not have “bipartisan credibility.”

“When President Biden nominated Dr. Kahl for this position, my expectation was that if confirmed, he and I would often disagree on policy but we would actually get along together, we could coexist together,” Inhofe said on Wednesday.

“But I quickly learned that this would really be impossible with Dr. Kahl,” Inhofe continued. “I don’t think I’ve ever said that about anyone, any nominee for any position that I can recall.”

Rebecca Kheel contributed.

Tags Biden nominee Defense Department Dick Durbin Jack Reed Jim Inhofe Joe Biden John Hickenlooper Lisa Murkowski Pentagon Rob Portman Senate Armed Services Committee Senate confirmation tie-breaking vote

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