Three vice presidents are on Capitol Hill Wednesday as two new Democratic senators are sworn in.
Per tradition, the current vice president, Mike Pence, participated in ceremonies for Alabama’s Doug Jones and Minnesota’s Tina Smith. The new senators were first formally sworn in on the Senate floor, then they will take part in a ceremonial swearing-in in the Old Senate Chamber.
Former Vice President Joe Biden accompanied Jones, who won a December special election to fill the seat vacated nearly a year ago by current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Luther Strange was appointed and served during the interim. With Jones’ election, Republicans now have a slimmer advantage in the Senate, 51-49.
Biden will speak afterward to a gathering of Jones’ friends and family, a person familiar with his plans said.
Walter Mondale, who was vice president during the Carter administration, was also there as Smith took the oath. Smith was appointed to replace former Sen. Al Franken, who officially resigned Tuesday amid allegations of sexual harassment, most of which were from before he was elected.
Mondale and Biden are both former senators themselves — Mondale in Minnesota and Biden in Delaware.
As president of the Senate, the vice president has a unique relationship with the upper chamber and can cast a tie-breaking vote in the rare event that the Senate is evenly split. Since the 1870s, each vice president has done this fewer than 10 times during their tenure. Pence has cast six tie-breaking votes so far.
The vice president can also preside over the Senate on ceremonial occasions, as Pence did to gavel in the vote after Republicans passed their final tax reform bill in December.
Pence, a former US congressman and governor of Indiana, frequently visits the Hill as he plays a key role in negotiating the President’s legislative agenda.