Harris makes rare recess appearance to help pass Afghanistan evacuee bill

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The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to assist the Americans who were forced to leave Afghanistan amid the U.S. withdrawal from the war-torn country, with Vice President Kamala Harris making a rare recess appearance to preside over the chamber.

The legislation, which cleared the House last week, boosts repatriation funding to aid the more than 5,000 Americans who were evacuated from Afghanistan this month after the Taliban rapidly took control of the country.

On Monday, the U.S. completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the nearly 20-year war. It also marked the conclusion of a massive airlift operation which saw the evacuation of more than 100,000 people, most of them Afghans. The Biden administration has said a few hundred Americans remain in Afghanistan and are still seeking to leave, but has touted the evacuation mission as a success.

“They’ve been uprooted. They were living in Afghanistan. So [it’s] to take care of their necessities on a short-term basis — it might be housing, sustenance, food, transportation, those kind of things, on a short-term basis,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who led the unanimous passage of the bill on the Senate floor, told reporters.

It’s extremely rare for the vice president to preside over a pro forma session of the Senate. Cardin said he was scheduled to preside over Tuesday’s pro forma session of the Senate, a twice-weekly procedural event that prevents presidents from making recess appointments. But another senator needed to be present to ask for unanimous passage of the repatriation bill, and, according to Cardin, “we couldn’t find another senator, so [Harris] volunteered.”

“They needed two senators on the floor, and I’m not sure there was another senator close by, so she said she would take care of it,” Cardin added.

Harris did not answer questions from reporters as she left the Capitol on Tuesday. Biden and his national security team have come under withering criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike who say they mismanaged the withdrawal of U.S. troops and failed to adequately prepare for a rapid Taliban takeover of the country.

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