Transition Tracker: Harris casts third tie-breaking vote on coronavirus recovery bill

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden administration.

  • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources advanced the nomination of Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior by a vote of 11-9 on Thursday.


  • The Department of Justice requested the Supreme Court dismiss three lawsuits relating to the withholding of federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions. It said it had reached an agreement with the jurisdictions at issue. The department, under the Trump administration, had sought to block jurisdictions that did not cooperate with federal immigration authorities from receiving certain aid.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Biden canceled a second airstrike on a target in Syria to avoid civilian casualties on February 26, 2021.
  • Biden will meet with leaders from Australia, India, and Japan as part of the first meeting of the Quad bloc—four democratic Indo-Pacific countries. No date was set for the event.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her third tie-breaking vote to proceed with debate on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on Thursday. The Senate had split 50-50 along party lines.

Transition in Context

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders, advisers, and stakeholders said about Xavier Becerra as the nominee for secretary of health and human services. The Senate Finance Committee split along party lines, 14-14, on whether to favorably report his nomination.

  • “If a doctor were nominated for Attorney General, everyone would say ‘he’s not qualified.’ Apparently, however, it is okay to nominate an Attorney General for HHS Secretary. A HHS Secretary should have some expertise in the subject matter. Previous appointees have been governors, a state insurance commissioner, health administrators or doctor, and a pharmaceutical executive.” – Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
  • “If there is an effort to paint the Attorney General as some kind of inexperienced radical, it’s just not backed up by what the committee saw last week. He respects those with whom he has differences of opinion, and he wants to find common ground with all members of this committee to solve big healthcare challenges.” – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
  • “Significant concerns have been raised about Attorney General Becerra’s challenges to HHS’ authority to provide a conscience exemption from the Obamacare contraception coverage mandate and enforcement of the state’s restrictive actions, including a ban on indoor religious services that was rejected by the Supreme Court.” – Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • “”HHS has always been a critical role, but especially during a pandemic. Attorney General Becerra’s experience will be a tremendous asset as he works to address the pandemic and make healthcare more affordable. … I know he’ll put American families at the top of his agenda.” – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)

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