With extremely poor approval ratings, Kamala Harris is reportedly in deep frustration knowing her political career is going to end by 2024, and Democratic Party’s key policymakers already are annoyed with her performances. Some of the policymakers and millions of supporters and voters of the Democratic Party have started asking – why did Joe Biden pick up Kamala Harris as the vice president. Some of the pro-Biden policymakers within Democratic Party say, the president needed the senator from West Virginia on his side, but he wasn’t sure he needed his vice president to get him there.
It was summertime, and President Joe Biden was under immense pressure to win the support of Senator Joe Manchin, whose decisive vote in a 50-50 chamber made him the president’s most delicate negotiating partner. Biden had invited Manchin to the Oval Office to privately make the case for his marquee domestic policy legislation. Just before Manchin arrived, he turned to Vice President Kamala Harris.
What he needed from her was not strategy or advice. He needed her to only say a quick hello, which she did before turning on her heel and leaving the room.
The moment, described as an exchange of “brief pleasantries” by a senior White House official and confirmed by two other people who were briefed on it, was a vivid reminder of the complexity of the job held by Harris: While most presidents promise their vice presidents access and influence, at the end of the day, power and responsibility are not shared equally, and Biden does not always feel a need for input from Harris as he navigates some of his most important relationships.
In Harris’ case, she came to the job without strong ties to key senators; one person briefed on the Oval Office meeting said it would be more productive if the discussion between Biden and Manchin remained private. It is unclear that the president had much sway on his own, either, given the senator’s decision this week to break with the White House over the domestic policy bill.
But without a headlining role in some of the most critical decisions facing the White House, the vice president is caught between criticism that she is falling short and resentment among supporters who feel she is being undercut by the administration she serves. And her allies increasingly are concerned that while Biden relied on her to help him win the White House, he does not need her to govern.
An early front-runner whose presidential ambitions fizzled amid a dysfunctional 2020 campaign, Harris was pulled onto the Biden ticket for her policy priorities that largely mirrored his, and her ability as a Black woman to bolster support with coalitions of voters he needed to win the presidency. But according to interviews with more than two dozen White House officials, political allies, elected officials and former aides, Harris is still struggling to define herself in the Biden White House or meaningfully correct what she and her aides feel is an unfair perception that she is adrift in the job.
Faced with declining approval ratings, a series of staff departures and a drumbeat of criticism from Republicans and the conservative news media, she has turned to powerful confidantes, including Hillary Clinton, to help plot a path forward.
According to The New York Times, Harris has privately told her allies that the news coverage of her would be different if she were any of her 48 predecessors, all of whom were white and male. She also has confided in them about the difficulties she is facing with the intractable issues in her portfolio, such as voting rights and the root causes of migration. The White House has pushed back against scathing criticism on both fronts, for what activists say is a lack of attention.
“I think it’s no secret that the different things she has been asked to take on are incredibly demanding, not always well understood publicly and take a lot of work as well as a lot of skill”, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview. “You have to do everything except one thing, which is take credit”.
Kamala Harris, who spent much of her four years in the Senate running for the presidency, was at odds with Manchin after she gave a series of interviews in West Virginia that he interpreted as unwelcome infringement on his home turf. Asked about the meeting in the Oval Office over the summer, a spokeswoman for Manchin said that the senator enjoys “a friendly and respectful working relationship” with the vice president.
Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate from Texas and one of the more prominent voices on border issues in the Democratic Party, said his experiences with Harris’ team had been disappointing. When Cuellar heard Harris was traveling to the border in June, he had his staff call her office to offer help and advice for her visit. He never received a call back.
“I say this very respectfully to her: I moved on”, Cuellar said. “She was tasked with that job, it doesn’t look like she’s very interested in this, so we are going to move on to other folks that work on this issue”.
In the future, Cuellar said he would go straight to the West Wing with his concerns on migration rather than the vice president’s office.
Of the White House, Cuellar said, “at least they talk to you”.
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