Kamala Harris has resigned her seat in the United States Senate in preparation for becoming the first female vice president in two days.
“Serving as your senator has been an honor,” Harris wrote in an open letter to Californians on Monday.
“And this is not goodbye. Today, as I resign from the Senate, I am preparing to take an oath that would have me preside over it,” Harris said in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
As vice president, Harris will provide the tie-breaking vote in a Senate that will be equally divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.
The vice presidency is the only constitutional office in the US government that “belongs to both the executive branch and the legislative branch”, former Vice President Walter Mondale once said in a 2002 speech.
Harris’s unique role will make Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer the majority leader of the Senate and give Democrats control over the Senate’s agenda for the first time in six years.
“Thus, as I leave the United States Senate, this is not goodbye. This is hello,” Harris wrote.
Harris is being replaced by Alex Padilla, the secretary of state of California who was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom. Padilla will be the first Latino senator from California.
Harris was first elected to the Senate when Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016. In reviewing her accomplishments over the past four years, Harris took note of the turmoil the US experienced under Trump and expressed hope for a better future.
“The past four years have tested as a nation,” Harris said, citing the Russian hack of the US election in 2016, Trump’s family separation policy at the southwest border, the US backtracking on climate change, the California wildfires, the Black Lives Matter protests of racial injustice and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This month, we witnessed something I thought I would never see in the United States: A mob breached the US Capitol, trying to thwart the certification of the 2020 election results,” she said.
“These have not been easy times by any stretch.”
Harris took note of several benchmarks of change and progress including the elections in Georgia of two Democratic candidates for Senate, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
Warnock is only the 11th Black person to be elected to the Senate in US history and Ossoff is the first Jewish senator elected from the South since 1879.
“Change is possible. For that, I am grateful and ready to get to work,” Harris said.
“Thus, as I leave the United States Senate, this is not goodbye. This is hello.”
Harris will be sworn in at Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina justice of the high court, according to a report by ABC News.
Marking the historic moment, Harris will use a Bible for the swearing-in that belonged to the late civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall who was the first Black person to become a Supreme Court Justice.
“The fact that Kamala Harris is a Black woman, is a woman of Indian ancestry, is a woman, automatically makes her different from every other vice president this country has ever seen,” Leah Daughtry, a former chief of staff at the Democratic National Committee, told The Associated Press news agency.