Harris, who has served as California’s junior Democratic senator since 2017, submitted a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, saying her resignation took effect at noon. Newsom later in the day appointed Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, to serve out the two remaining two years of Harris’ term.
In an op-ed published by the San Francisco Chronicle before her resignation, Harris told Californians that “this is not goodbye” and suggested they haven’t seen the last of her in the Senate chamber.
“As I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it,” Harris wrote. “As senator-turned-Vice-President Walter Mondale once pointed out, the vice presidency is the only office in our government that ‘belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch.’”
Harris, who made history as the first Black woman to represent the Golden State in the Senate, has the power as vice president to break ties in the upper chamber.
Harris’ authority is likely to be key for President-elect Joe Biden as he looks ahead to pushing his legislative agenda through a Senate that has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, thanks to the blue sweep of Georgia’s double runoff elections earlier this month.
In her op-ed, Harris noted that there have only been 268 tie-breaking votes cast in the Senate by a vice president since the nation’s founding.
“I intend to work tirelessly as your vice president, including, if necessary, fulfilling this Constitutional duty,” she wrote. “At the same time, it is my hope that rather than come to the point of a tie, the Senate will instead find common ground and do the work of the American people.”
The first test for Harris could come early, as Biden hopes that Congress will quickly consider his proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.
The Democratic-controlled House, which approved an even larger relief bill last spring, is likely to pass Biden’s plan without much ado.
But Republicans in the Senate have long refused to back any major relief spending, meaning the chamber may end up voting 50-50 on Biden’s stimulus measure, at which point Harris could step in, break the tie and bring the bill to Biden’s desk.
Biden inaugural rehearsal
Participants at a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration were evacuated from the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Monday after a fire broke out near the building, according to officials.
With tensions still high in the wake of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump attack on the Capitol, security officers rapidly whisked away the participants, including members of a military band, as a plume of smoke was seen shooting up in the air a few blocks away around 10:30 a.m. local time.
But the blaze apparently wasn’t connected to the inaugural preparations, and the city's fire department said no injuries were reported.
Law enforcement officials said the fire likely started in a homeless encampment under a highway overpass about five blocks away from the Capitol.
Neither Biden nor Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were on site.
The U.S. Secret Service, which is leading security operations for Biden’s Wednesday inauguration, said it ordered the fire-related evacuation “out of an abundance of caution” and that people on the Capitol grounds were told to shelter in place.
“There is no threat to the public,” the agency said in a statement.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
The precautionary shutdown comes at a tumultuous time in the nation’s capital.
Tens of thousands of National Guard troops have been dispatched to the city ahead of Biden’s inauguration amid warnings from the FBI that armed far-right groups may attempt to pull off another attack on the Capitol.
The National Mall, usually a place for supporters of the new president to gather during the inauguration, has been completely sealed off at least through Thursday, and security personnel erected large steel barriers around Capitol Hill over the weekend, making Washington look like a city at war.
President Donald Trump, who won’t attend Biden’s inauguration, has been impeached for inciting the Jan. 6 attack, in which five people died, by telling thousands of supporters to “fight” to stop lawmakers from certifying the 2020 election results during a joint session of Congress at the Capitol.
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