Kamala Harris made history on Wednesday, marking a number of firsts in being sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States of America.
Harris is the first woman in the nation’s history to be sworn into the position. She is also the first person of color to be vice president, being the first Black American and the first Indian American to serve in the role.
Harris was sworn in as vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. For her swearing-in, Harris used two bibles, one of which belonged to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice to serve on the High Court.
Harris formerly served as United States senator for the state of California. She was only the second woman of color to ever serve in the “upper chamber” of Congress.
Her becoming vice president will not mean, however, that she won’t continue to serve in that legislative body. In fact, she will likely have a significantly more important part to play, as her being vice president means she will, according to the U.S. Constitution, also serve as president of the Senate.
In most circumstances, the position is largely symbolic. However, the president of the Senate also provides the tie-breaking vote in the chamber in the event that the senators are split in votes on bills or presidential appointments. With the current Senate balance set to be a 50-50 tie between Democrats and Republicans, Harris’s presence as president of the Senate means that Democrats will be in formal control of the Senate.
Harris also plays a part in the swearing-in of future Senators to the legislative body. On Wednesday, she will swear in three Democratic senators, including Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who won two competitive runoff elections in Georgia earlier this month. She will also swear in Alex Padilla, the former Secretary of State of the state of California, who will step in to complete the remainder of Harris’s term as senator for the Golden State.
Harris will have a difficult task ahead of her, not only because the nation is split politically after a bitter election season, but also because many progressives across the country are wary of her.
“The fact that the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party praised Biden’s VP choice is probably not a very good sign for progressives,” activist Max Berger said in August after Biden had announced Harris as his choice for vice president.
Still, Harris currently has a net favorability rating that is positive across the country overall, with 44 percent of Americans saying they view her favorably while 41 percent say they have unfavorable views of her at this moment, according to the results of a recent Economist/YouGov poll.
That +3 net favorability rating is 10 points better than what her predecessor is currently polling at as he leaves office. Former Vice President Mike Pence, in the same poll, received a 40 percent favorability rating, while 47 percent of Americans said they had an unfavorable view of him, a -7 point net favorability rating.