Biden Needs Harris to Have a Main Function. What It Is Hasn’t Been Outlined.
WASHINGTON – President Biden was removing a list of priorities for a coronavirus relief law at one of his first meetings with reporters as Commander in Chief when he stopped correcting himself in mid-sentence.
These points, Mr Biden said, are what “we think the priorities are” with an emphasis on the pronoun. Then he turned to Vice President Kamala Harris and stood a few socially distant feet behind him. He apologized.
It has been a rare slip up for the president who has worked to include Ms. Harris in almost all of his public appearances and stresses that she is a full partner in his decisions. These recurring scenes are the most tangible result of Mr. Biden’s efforts – and an instruction from the President – to treat Ms. Harris, the first woman and vice-president of blacks, as equal stakeholders as he works to piece together the nation’s political rifts and dealing with racial inequalities and bringing the coronavirus pandemic to heel.
“The president has given us clear instructions,” said Ron Klain, Mr Biden’s chief of staff, in an interview. “Our goal is to get them out as far as possible.”
Ms. Harris’ relationship with the President was forged through the politics of the Democratic Primary Campaign when she emerged as one of Mr. Biden’s most vocal opponents. A surprising chemistry with Mr. Biden has turned them into running mates, and now that relationship will be crucial in allowing Ms. Harris to define herself in what historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. said: “It has proven to be“ more spectacular and in my opinion incurable job “showed frustration.”
“She moved from that failed campaign to the Golden Ticket to replace a man who values the role of Vice President and will bring her out in that historic role,” said Gil Duran, a former aide to Ms. Harris, when she served as attorney general worked in California. “So the question is: what is she doing with this reset?”
The answer is in the works.
The vice president has already announced her presence, most recently on Friday morning when she traveled to Capitol Hill before sunrise to cast a groundbreaking Senate vote that clears the way for Mr Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package made progress without Republican support.
And as a groundbreaking part of the partnership, Ms. Harris took on the burden of living up to the expectations of voters, especially those of color, who helped get Mr. Biden into the Oval Office. It is a burden that Mr. Klain says she carried “with grace”, even if it weighs heavily on her. Others say it will take her some time to set her own course.
At the moment, the Vice President’s recruitment agents seem determined to cement and highlight their bond with Mr. Biden through their joint appearances, even if they want to avoid Ms. Harris becoming a rigid, mannequin-like figure standing by the president’s side. much like Vice President Mike Pence has done for the past four years.
For a model, Ms. Harris need look no further than Mr. Biden. In eight years as Vice President, he has carved out his own role alongside President Barack Obama, but not before overcoming a relationship that was initially rigid and formal.
Mr Biden and Mrs Harris are off to a faster start. They spent a lot more time together than their predecessors – usually four to five hours a day in the White House, helpers say – partly because the coronavirus pandemic has restricted their travel.
Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden usually start the day by jointly receiving the President’s Daily Letter in the Oval Office, a tradition restored since the departure of President Donald J. Trump, who had little interest in it. They also quickly embraced the idea of having a weekly White House lunch as a private opportunity to build trust and exchange thoughts.
In building her own workforce, Ms. Harris selected people she knew had good relationships with the president and his team. She chose Tina Flournoy, who is closely associated with Mr. Klain, to run her office. Ashley Etienne, a former advisor to Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, is its communications director.
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Apr. 5, 2021, 9:20 p.m. ET
Ms. Harris also knew that the President held Symone in high regard for Sanders, who served as the press secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign before joining the Biden campaign. Ms. Sanders is now her press officer.
The Vice-President’s advisors repeatedly stressed that all of their public events and messages were closely coordinated with members of Mr Biden’s team. A visit by Ms. Harris last week to the National Institutes of Health to thank scientists and get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine was paired with a speech by Mr. Biden later that day in which he announced the purchase of 200 Millions of additional doses touted the vaccine.
The performance made a lasting impression in the district of Representative Joyce Beatty, Democrat of Ohio and Chair of the Black Caucus of Congress. In an interview, Ms. Beatty said her phone was lit up with calls from voters newly curious to get the vaccine themselves after photos of Ms. Harris who received the shot came online.
Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to die from the coronavirus than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. White Americans are more likely to receive the vaccine, however, in part because of systemic racism in health care institutions. The sight of a black woman receiving the vaccine, Ms. Beatty said, “gave people hope and gave them education.”
These moments when Ms. Harris is in contact with people across the country are critical to any future she might have outside of the administration. But they also align with the messages that Mr Biden hopes his Vice President – as a woman, a minority and a generation younger – can convey on behalf of his agenda.
But as Mr. Biden knows well, the more opportunities there are to work out your own identity as a Vice President, the greater the chances of causing chaos. As Vice President, Mr. Biden’s freedom of speech often surprised Obama’s tightly scripted White House. At times, including 2012 when he spoke out in favor of gay marriage in front of Obama, Mr Biden threw the script away entirely.
While Ms. Harris was interviewing a television station in West Virginia last week, her support for the president’s $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan was interpreted as an attempt to put pressure on the state’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III, who took offense and expressed anger that he hadn’t gotten heads-up.
And in a minor mistake during the same interview, Ms. Harris promoted the clearance of “abandoned landmines” in West Virginia – not “abandoned mines” – as a job creation measure in the state.
White House officials quickly reached out to Mr. Manchin for damage control and papered the hatch, publicly praising Mr. Manchin’s worth in the Biden-Harris agenda.
Ms. Harris also had questions about members of her family who benefited from her relationships with her. Ms. Harris’ stepdaughter was reportedly given a modeling contract a week after inauguration day, and eyebrows were raised among even the president’s allies. And a store run by Mrs. Harris’ niece that sells Harris-themed goods has been an ethical issue for Mr. Biden’s employees since the campaign. The White House has stated that her name will not be used in any commercial activity that a spokeswoman said would “imply endorsement or support.”
This has not affected the President’s view of Mrs Harris. White House officials said Mr. Biden was eager to get her to work, much like Mr. Obama blamed him for the stimulus plan in early 2009. The fact that the President did not intend to assign her a specific portfolio immediately has inevitably raised some questions about her role in the administration.
Instead, Mr. Biden has given Ms. Harris a number of high-profile assignments in the first two weeks of office. Just hours after the President announced on inauguration day that the United States intended to rejoin the World Health Organization, the Vice President spoke to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the group’s general manager, and reiterated the support of the new government following Mr Trump’s ongoing attacks on the world’s leading healthcare facility.
The call sent an early message that she was speaking for Mr. Biden about some of his top priorities, but Ms. Harris wasn’t shy about pushing Mr. Biden on her own. Over the past few weeks, advisers to the President and Vice-President have said she has repeatedly urged greater focus on how administration policies would affect disadvantaged people in urban and rural communities who are often overlooked.
During an Oval Office meeting with Mr. Biden and his advisors on their first Monday at the White House, Ms. Harris urged Jeffrey D. Zients, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator, to provide more details on using mobile vaccination centers to ensure that the poor people, those living in remote areas could be protected from the virus.
“The Vice President has been pushing us hard in a very good way to see if there are enough mobile units available. When we finished the meeting, she urged me further: “Where are we in mobile vaccination units? How many will we have in what time frame? Will they be able to reach rural and urban communities? How much progress have you made? ‘”Said Mr. Zients.
That kind of persistence made a deep impression on Mr. Biden, his aides say.
Just hours after Ms. Harris showered Mr. Zients with questions, the president found himself on stage with Ms. Harris solely responsible for his coronavirus relief plan. Mr Klain, who has served two vice-presidents as chief of staff, said the instance is further evidence that Mr Biden has an instinctive understanding of what those moments might feel like.
“It starts with a president who has been there and understands what it feels like to take two steps back at a public event,” said Klain. “I think he has this empathy for your situation that is unique.”
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