Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday night will throw a private dinner party at the Naval Observatory for the 16 Democratic and eight Republican female senators, a gathering that comes at a tense moment in negotiations on a number of the Biden administration’s biggest ambitions.
The bipartisan dinner is the first social event Ms. Harris has hosted since coming into office six 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 comes 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. It was not clear how many planned to attend. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, both said they planned to attend.
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 of West Virginia announced his opposition to the voting rights legislation that Ms. Harris was championing for the administration, and he was expected to be in the hot seat Tuesday afternoon during a caucus luncheon. And a group of bipartisan senators, including two Democrats who were invited to the dinner, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, has unveiled 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. border with Mexico by addressing the root causes in countries like Guatemala that push migrants north.