For the first time in US history, a sitting vice president cast the deciding vote on a Cabinet official’s confirmation. Just a few moments ago, Mike Pence cast his vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, breaking the expected 50-50 tie.
Pence made sure he arrived in plenty of time to cast the vote for DeVos, and CBS News was on scene to catch the moment:
MOMENTS AGO: VP Pence arrives on Capitol Hill ahead of Betsy DeVos nomination vote, where he may cast tie-breaking ballot pic.twitter.com/aG5QHvYpwS
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 7, 2017
It’s hardly the first time a VP has had to cast a vote in the Senate; NBC’s Carrie Dann reports that we’ve seen it 242 times in our history, or a little over once per year in our post-constitutional era, but never on a Cabinet nomination. Why hasn’t it happened more often? Well, until Harry Reid blew up the filibuster, the minority party could stop a Cabinet confirmation without it coming to a floor vote, and the threshold for filibusters has been between 34 and 40 over the last two hundred-plus years. Under those circumstances, the VP couldn’t have cast a vote at all. We are much more likely to see these kinds of votes in the future, thanks to Reid’s machinations. Consider that when commentators talk about how Pence’s presence was a historic rebuke of Donald Trump.
Next on the docket: Jeff Sessions’ confirmation. It will be close, but probably won’t require Pence.
Update: Just because it’s fun to have this reminder:
Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to consider filibuster reform. It had to be done.
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) November 21, 2013