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An influential voice, a decisive vote: VP Kamala Harris is expected to play key role in Biden administration

An influential voice, a decisive vote: VP Kamala Harris is expected to play key role in Biden administration
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An influential voice, a decisive vote: VP Kamala Harris is expected to play key role in Biden administration

An influential voice, a decisive vote: VP Kamala Harris is anticipated to play key position in Biden administration

In a single signal of how a lot she could also be concerned in legislative campaigns, Harris has been in contact with mayors across the nation to preview Biden’s coronavirus aid package deal

Vice-President Kamala Harris represented the march of historical past when she was sworn in Wednesday by Supreme Court docket Justice Sonia Sotomayor. As a Californian of Jamaican and Indian descent, she is the primary lady and the primary lady of color to carry the nation’s second-highest workplace.

It was a landmark second. However simply hours later, Harris was on the job, returning to the US Capitol to execute her constitutional position as president of the Senate and swear in three new Democratic senators: Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the 2 Democrats elected in a Georgia particular election this month, and Alex Padilla, her personal successor to the California seat she resigned Monday.

Presiding within the Senate shortly earlier than 5 pm, Harris was visibly amused as she introduced that she would swear in Padilla “to fill the emptiness created by the resignation of Senator Kamala D Harris of California.”

At that, she let free a hearty snigger.

“Sure, that was very bizarre!” she added.

The sunshine second belied the intense stakes at play with the swearing in of three new Democrats. It additionally served discover of how essential the Senate shall be to the beginning of Harris’ tenure as vp within the Biden administration.

With the Senate divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, and President Joe Biden hoping to go formidable laws on the coronavirus , the economic system, local weather change and different coverage issues, Harris — who as vice-president will break any tiebreaking votes — could discover herself returning usually to the Capitol.

“There’s positively going to be a requirement, I feel, in a 50-50 Senate, like I’ve by no means seen within the Senate earlier than,” mentioned Senator Cory Booker, New Jersey.

“For the Biden-Harris agenda, she shall be in Congress very, fairly often or reaching out to senators fairly often to attempt to push that agenda by way of,” Booker mentioned.

An aide to Harris mentioned that she had already begun reaching out to different senators about White Home nominations, together with that of retired Basic Lloyd Austin III to be secretary of protection.

However Harris, 56, is certain to be excess of a 51st Democratic senator to Biden. She is going to carry to her history-making position on the White Home an array of expertise that Biden will draw on, together with the prosecutorial chops that she displayed in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, her private power that balances Biden’s low-key strategy and the voice she’s going to provide to ladies and other people of color.

“She’ll carry a justice lens, a racial justice lens, racial fairness, to the whole lot and each coverage and each resolution that’s going to be made,” mentioned Consultant Barbara Lee, Democrat, California, a longtime ally of Harris. “That’s so essential, to have a Black lady, a South Asian lady’s perspective, on the large points that this administration has to deal with.”

Present and former aides to each Biden and Harris say that whereas coping with the Senate shall be essential to her job, she has not been assigned a selected situation portfolio, a minimum of on the outset, and can as an alternative function a governing associate to Biden on all of his high priorities. If fulfilled, that mandate may make her among the many most influential vice-presidents in historical past.

In a single signal of how a lot she could also be concerned in legislative campaigns, Harris has been in contact with mayors across the nation to preview Biden’s coronavirus aid package deal, the Harris aide mentioned.

From the second that Harris was chosen as Biden’s operating mate, Republicans sought to color her as a radical who would co-opt the extra centrist Biden agenda and push any administration far to the left, usually counting on sexist private assaults within the course of.

But whereas Harris and Biden had sharp disagreements on plenty of points in the course of the major, as his operating mate she made some extent at each flip to show that she not solely embraced his agenda but in addition had studied his proposals intimately and was absolutely on board as his associate.

On Wednesday, she reveled within the second as she appeared outdoors the Capitol for her inauguration. “So happy with you,” former president Barack Obama instructed her as they fist-bumped shortly earlier than her swearing-in. Minutes later, Harris, clad in a purple coat, barely suppressed a smile as she completed taking her oath from Sotomayor, her hand on a Bible as soon as belonging to Thurgood Marshall, the previous Supreme Court docket justice.

After the inaugural ceremony, Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, escorted her predecessor, Mike Pence, and his spouse, Karen Pence, down the Capitol steps for Pence’s departure. The {couples} stopped halfway for a pleasant chat punctuated by laughter.

In her subsequent position, although, Harris could face inherent challenges, together with discovering her place in a West Wing stocked with veterans of the Obama White Home who’ve identified and labored with each other for years and advising a president with deeply mounted concepts of how Washington operates.

And given hypothesis that the 78-year-old Biden could not search a second time period in workplace, Harris, who mounted her personal unsuccessful 2020 White Home bid, is certain to face scrutiny about her electoral future a lot sooner than did her predecessors.

One issue which will work in Harris’ favour is Biden’s personal expertise as vice-president, particularly initially, when he joined an Obama White Home staff that at instances had a clubby high quality. Harris’ allies hope and anticipate that Biden — and most of the aides who labored with him, just like the incoming chief of employees, Ron Klain — will keep in mind what it was wish to be “on the opposite aspect” and be certain that Harris and her staff are included and empowered.

“So many individuals within the Biden orbit are sympathetic to what it’s like to sit down on the OVP aspect,” mentioned Liz Allen, a former marketing campaign aide to Harris and to Biden within the Obama White Home, utilizing the official abbreviation for the Workplace of the Vice President. “I feel persons are going to be leaping by way of hoops to verify she will break by way of.”

Harris and Biden carry starkly totally different political profiles to the brand new administration. When Biden walks into the White Home on Wednesday, he shall be returning to a constructing he is aware of intimately from eight years as vp and numerous visits throughout a 36-year Senate profession. Harris, who was within the Senate for lower than one time period, has had far much less publicity to the interior workings of a presidential administration.

Their variations in some ways flip the dynamic that existed between Biden and former president Barack Obama. Again then, Obama was a younger, relative newcomer to the capital searching for expertise and credibility with working-class white America. Biden, a Beltway veteran, was his West Wing associate.

On this case, Harris will play the position of relative Washington newcomer and provide Biden, the consummate insider, a starkly totally different perspective on the world and a bridge to a various nation.

Typically she might also provide him a decisive vote. Though the Senate filibuster signifies that a lot laws requires 60 votes to go, Biden and Chuck Schumer, Democrat, New York, who will change into the Senate majority chief, could flip to the parliamentary tactic of price range reconciliation, which prohibits the filibuster and permits for 51-vote approvals.

Senator Chris Coons mentioned he hoped that Harris would wind up “much less because the tiebreaking vote however extra as a consensus-builder” to assist Biden win bipartisan majorities for his agenda. However bipartisanship has been in brief provide, and Democrats anticipate Biden to function on slim legislative margins.

“If not, she’s going to certainly must be an everyday presence within the Senate,” Coons allowed.

As vice-president, Biden himself solid no tiebreaking votes. However Vice-President Mike Pence was required to interrupt deadlocks 13 instances over the previous 4 years.

Extra broadly, Biden will most probably really feel that he wants little steering within the workings of an establishment the place he served for thus lengthy and the place Harris spent simply 4 years. However Harris has relationships with newer members of the Senate with whom Biden didn’t overlap.

One early activity for Harris shall be ramping up her nationwide safety experience. Aides say that she’s going to assist Biden’s broader agenda of reengaging with allies, coping with the challenges China presents and combating local weather change. However she is prone to pay specific curiosity to sure points, together with world well being and democracy, and human rights. Harris additionally has a powerful curiosity in cybersecurity, knowledgeable by her service on the Senate’s Intelligence and Homeland Safety committees.

Biden has recommended that he sees himself as a “bridge” to the following technology of leaders — and lots of Democrats anticipate that Harris could be part of that subsequent technology. If Biden doesn’t run once more, Harris would virtually definitely be thought of the early Democratic front-runner for 2024.

Robert Shrum, who served as a high political strategist to former vice-president Al Gore, whose presidential aspirations throughout President Invoice Clinton’s second time period have been broadly understood, mentioned that Harris ought to focus solely on serving Biden, not pursuing an impartial political profile.

“I feel she shall be very cautious to do her job as vice-president, and except and till he tells her and tells the nation that he’s not able to run once more, she’s not going to concentrate on that in any respect,” Shrum mentioned.

Michael Crowley and Katie Glueck c.2021 The New York Instances Firm

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