Then, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor read “so help me God,” the stoicism broke. “So help me God,” Harris repeated, overcome with a smile as her sister, Maya, broke into tears behind her.
She hugged her husband. She found Joe Biden waiting, shaking his fists in triumph. Then she walked back to her seat and into history.
The moment reflected a historic rise at a time of historic crises. Harris, the 56-year-old daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, became the first Black person and the first person of South Asian descent to hold an office that has been previously occupied solely by White men.
She was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the nation’s highest court, a calculated choice from a former senator from California who has highlighted women of color during her career.
From the moment Harris stepped out of her motorcade, she and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were escorted by Eugene Goodman, the Black Capitol police officer who held off a mostly White mob of rioters during the attempted siege of that complex last week. Goodman also escorted her to the balcony where she took the oath.
She stepped out to a gathered crowd that included allies such as Hillary Clinton, who nearly broke the glass ceiling for women in the nation’s highest offices four years sooner, and recent adversaries, including Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the subject of one of her most-talked-about interrogations on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As she walked into the ceremony, she stooped to kiss her niece. She bumped fists with Barack Obama, the first Black man to serve as President.
She shared a few words with Mike Pence, her successor, who called Harris to congratulate her earlier this week, even as President Trump refused to do so.
She passed women wearing pearls like her, including Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who wore pearls that used to belong to late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm — a nod to the first Black woman to run for president.
When Harris ran for president last year, she chose her logo and colors based on the ones Chisholm used a half century ago.
Harris, clad in a suit of purple designed by Black designers Christopher John Rogers and Sergio Hudson, took the oath of office with her hand or two Bibles.
One belonged to civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice and a fellow Howard University graduate whom Harris, a former prosecutor, saw as a hero.
The second belonged to Regina Shelton, a neighbor who was a second mother to Harris and her younger sister, Maya. Harris took her Senate oath on Shelton’s Bible in January 2017. Joe Biden administered that oath.
Democrats and Republicans each hold 50 seats in the U.S. Senate and, as the president of the Senate, Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.
The Democratic lean means the Biden-Harris administration has a clearer path to enacting legislative priorities, including an expansion of federal health-care subsidies, a comprehensive immigration overhaul and a tax increase on the wealthy.
Harris was one of more than two dozen Democrats who had vied to unseat President Donald Trump.
She began the Democratic primary as an on-paper favorite, drawing one of its biggest crowds — more than 20,000 people — to her campaign launch in front of City Hall in Oakland, Calif.
But her campaign foundered, largely because of her inability to dislodge Biden’s base of support. By December 2019, she was out of money and exited the race before a single ballot was cast.
Harris, who was selected to the Senate the same day Trump became president, did not have the progressive track record to pry away loyalists to Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and she did not inspire the newcomer zing of Pete Buttigieg, then-mayor of South Bend., Ind..
(The Washington Post)