Harris to Host Dinner for Female Senators

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Politics|Harris welcomes the women of the Senate for dinner, building bridges with homemade cheese puffs.


The vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory.
Credit...Al Drago for The New York Times

Annie Karni

  • June 15, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris threw a private dinner party at the Naval Observatory on Tuesday night for the 16 Democratic and eight Republican women serving as U.S. senators, a gathering that came at a tense moment in negotiations on a number of the Biden administration’s biggest ambitions.

The bipartisan dinner was the first social event Ms. Harris had hosted since coming into office five months ago — her move to the official vice-presidential residence was delayed for three months because of renovations — and the outreach to her former Senate colleagues came as Ms. Harris has taken the lead on the administration’s push to pass voting rights legislation.

All 24 women in the Senate were invited, according to an administration official. All but three — Cindy Hyde-Smith, Republican of Mississippi; Cynthia Lummis, Republican of Wyoming; and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona — attended.

Photos posted online after the event by Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, showed about 20 of the senators seated together.

Ms. Stabenow posted a photo that showed the vice president giving a toast to the group, flanked by Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, and Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington. She also shared a photo of cheese puffs that she said Ms. Harris, known for her love of cooking, made from scratch for the group.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, was scheduled to appear on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News directly after the dinner to give viewers an “inside look at the event,” Mr. Hannity tweeted.

With just six weeks left before Congress’s August recess, the Biden agenda appears to be stalled while Republicans try to derail the president’s economic plans and delay any Democratic changes past the point where they can be implemented before the 2022 elections.

There are intraparty fights to deal with, as well. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, remains opposed to the voting rights legislation that Ms. Harris is championing for the administration and to ending the Senate filibuster, which could be used to derail Biden priorities.

Two Democrats invited to the dinner, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, are part of a bipartisan group of senators that is negotiating an alternative to the president’s infrastructure plan that does not address key Democratic priorities, like climate change. The plan does not have the support of a majority of Republicans, and progressives like Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, have already come out against it.

Ms. Harris has not been a key player in infrastructure negotiations and was not known for her close relationships with colleagues on Capitol Hill during her four years in the Senate, a chunk of which she spent running for president.

But as vice president — and the tiebreaking vote in the evenly divided Senate — she has taken on some of the administration’s most difficult goals. Besides the voting rights push, Ms. Harris has also been tasked with stemming the flow of migrants to the U.S.-Mexico border by addressing the root causes in countries like Guatemala that push migrants north.

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