Harris prepares for Fundamental Character in Biden's White House

But that is only where her boundary-breaking function begins.

18 January 2021 Monday 06:34
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Harris prepares for Fundamental Character in Biden's White House

With the confluence of crises confronting Joe Biden's government -- and an evenly divided Senate in which she would deliver the tie-breaking vote -- Harris is shaping up to be a fundamental player in addressing all from the coronavirus pandemic to criminal justice reform.

Symone Sanders, Harris' main spokeswoman, stated that although the president-elect's portfolio hasn't been completely defined yet, she's got a hand in all aspects of Biden's agenda.

"There are pieces that Biden may specifically ask her to winner, but outside of that she's in the dining table for everything, included in everything, and giving input and feedback and being a supporting partner to him all pieces," she explained.

Individuals working closely with Harris on the transition resist the notion of siloing her into any particular issue early on, since the sheer variety of struggles that the Biden government faces means it will be"all hands on deck" during their early months. They say she will be involved with all four of the major priorities they've set out: turning around the economy, tackling COVID-19, and addressing climate change and racial justice.

"She's a voice in all of those. She's an opinion in those areas. And it will probably get to a stage where she's concentrating on a number of the areas more specifically," Sanders explained. "But now, I think what we're faced with in this country is really large, it's all hands-on deck."

Harris has been closely involved with all of Biden's biggest decisions since winning the election in November, joining him for each of his crucial meetings focused on Cabinet selections, the COVID-19 relief invoice, safety issues and more. The two talk over the phone nearly every day, and she travels to Delaware sometimes multiple times weekly for transition events and meetings.

Those involved at the transition say both have taken severely Biden's insistence that he needs Harris to be the"final voice in the area" on key decisions. Biden is known to switch to Harris first during meetings to ask for her view or view on the matter at hand.

However they never worked closely together.

Since joining the ticket, and particularly since the election, Harris has made attempts to deepen their relationship and is in regular contact with the president-elect, people close to Harris say. That relationship, based on presidential historian Joel Goldstein, will be crucial to their success as working partners.

"The relationship of the president into the president is the most important relationship. Establishing mutual understanding and confidence is really a key to a prosperous vice presidency," Goldstein said.

Biden and Obama were from likewise distinct backgrounds and generations and also entered the White House using a relatively fresh working relationship. However, their relationship and mutual understanding grew through the presidency, also Obama trusted Biden with some of his government's most significant endeavors, such as the execution of the 2009 Recovery Act and the troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Harris is thought to be looking at Biden's vice presidency as a guide for her very own.

While Biden has skirted questions about whether he plans to run for reelection, at 78 he will be the oldest president in history, leaving questions about whether he'll retire at the conclusion of his sentence. That will make Harris the instant frontrunner in any 2024 Democratic presidential leader.

Early in the presidential vetting process, her potential presidential ambitions gave a Biden allies pause. But because her selection, Harris has turned into a loyal spouse to Biden, seldom if ever bothering him openly.

However, California Rep. Barbara Lee, that was the initial Congressional Black Caucus member to endorse in the first when she supported Harris, said the vice president-elect is not afraid to speak her thoughts.

"She's no shrinking violet," Lee said. "If she considers that one decision ought to be made versus a different she's gonna weigh in and give her ideas and opinions"

Biden has a personal affection for the work of diplomacy and profound relationships with international leaders that Harris can not match. But aides say she will be deeply involved in the administration's diplomatic priorities simply due to the sheer number of issues that will take up Biden's time. She may also be given a particular facet of the administration's coronavirus reaction to oversee.

One of her main priorities early on will be certain to be the passing of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Biden announced Thursday. Those working with Harris about the transition state that while Biden will be closely associated with restarting the bundle through the Senate due to his longstanding relationships with longer-serving lawmakers, Harris knows the newer members and can help build new relationships in Congress.

The first few months of the Biden administration is going to be focused on COVID-19 and the economy. However, Harris is sure to face scrutiny -- and pressure -- from urges to ensure the views of Dark and brown Americans have been reflected in those policies and the Biden White House's priorities.

Leah Daughtry, a former chief of staff at the Democratic National Committee, said Harris will make a difference simply by being in the room.

"The fact that Kamala Harris is a Black woman, is a woman of Indian ancestry, is a woman, mechanically makes her different from every other vice president that this country has ever seen," she said. "That combination of adventures provides a set of values and lived experiences into a room where they haven't previously existed. And that may only be helpful for this American democracy."

But as South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn put it,"There will be a lot of weight on these shoulders."

"Those of us who come to these places we come to them knowing full well that we have a burden to make certain we do it in this way, that there'll be people coming from us," he explained.

Clyburn also confessed that Harris could also be a flashpoint for controversy amongst the portion of President Donald Trump's followers that are motivated by racial animus, which Clyburne said contributed to the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"They're still holding on to lots of animus about Barack Obama, and they're gonna move it to her, like they moved it to other people here in this building," Clyburn said. "And they are never gonna get beyond that."

But Harris' allies say as a kid of civil rights activists, and a Black woman who's spent her life facing and trying to address racism and inequality, navigating those pressures as president will come as second nature to her.

"Kamala Harris didn't just fall out of the Harvard Law School such as Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz or somebody like this," explained Bakari Sellers, referencing two Republican senators who objected to the congressional certificate of Biden's triumph.

"I mean, she's built for this."