Vice President Kamala Harris has notched another accolade under her belt as she becomes the first woman in U.S. history to assume presidential power.
On Friday, the White House announced that President Joe Biden, 77, will undergo a routine colonoscopy at Walter Reed Medical Center and “will transfer power to the Vice President for the brief period of time when he is under anesthesia.”
In the midst of it all, Harris has had to refute claims that she is being sidelined in her position as second-in-command and struggling to maintain a good relationship with President Joe Biden and his office.
In an interview with “Good Morning America” co-anchor George Stephanopoulos, Harris said she does not feel misused or underused by President Joe Biden’s office, contrary to a CNN report.
“We’re getting things done, and we’re doing it together,” Harris told Stephanopoulos.
“So, you don’t feel misused or underused?” Stephanopoulos asked the vice president.
“No,” Harris said. “I don’t. I’m very, very excited about the work that we have accomplished. But I am also absolutely, absolutely clear-eyed that there is a lot more to do, and we’re gonna get it done.”
After talking to former and current staff and others close to the administration, CNN first reported that Harris is facing staffing issues, and there is tension between the West Wing and the vice president’s office over how Harris is being utilized. Sources said the White House had not supported Harris when she faced backlash.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also shot down the claims in the report.
“The president selected the vice president to serve as his running mate because he felt she was exactly the person he wanted to have by his side to govern the country,” Psaki said. “She’s a key partner. She’s a bold leader, and she is someone who has taken on incredibly important assignments.”
Some close to Harris also said she faces more pressure as the first female, first Black and first Asian-American vice president. Her approval ratings are also lower than the president’s, and she has faced harsher social media scrutiny than past vice presidents.
“She’s not only the first woman vice president, but the first woman of color. This is a moment that has to succeed; otherwise we are fearful that this could set us back as women for a long time,” one outside adviser told CNN.
The vice president’s office, in a statement, has written off some of the reports as gossip. However, those who spoke to the news network with confidentiality said Harris is frustrated with her staff, Biden’s lack of collaboration and some of the president’s aides, who may have an agenda against her. Claiming she “feels isolated and unsure of whom she can trust on her staff.”
In one instance, Harris attended a fundraiser for former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, where COVID-19 protocols were not followed, even though the White House has advocated for the prevention measures. Numerous politicians and donors were also left off the invitation list when Harris made an October visit to the Bronx to push Biden’s Build Back Better proposal.
Harris’ supporters and advisors have complained that the administration is not putting the vice president in situations where she can shine. Harris was a standout on the campaign trail for her sharp wit and strong will against attacks by former President Donald Trump. Now she spends most of her time engaging in “quiet Hill diplomacy” or courting members of Congress on the administration’s policies.
“Kamala Harris is a leader but is not being put in positions to lead. That doesn’t make sense. We need to be thinking long-term, and we need to be doing what’s best for the party,” said a top Democratic donor to CNN. “You should be putting her in positions to succeed, as opposed to putting weights on her. If you did give her the ability to step up and help her lead, it would strengthen you and strengthen the party.”
Ongoing tensions between Biden’s and Harris’ staff have also reportedly muddled the vice presidency. Harris’ team was displeased Biden had assigned her to handle migration from Central America to the U.S. but did not assign her to the Southern border, where there is currently a crisis.
Former President Barrack Obama also gave Biden the same assignment to root up and address the causes of migration to the U.S. Her office feared the assignment would be mischaracterized and leave her open to criticism because of the crisis.
Tensions around the issue reportedly erupted after Harris told NBC’s Lester Holt that she had never visited the Southern border and was emboldened by the White House’s lack of support for Harris.
The West Wing did not come to the vice president’s defense after she drew criticism from the interview, or other times conservatives attacked her. Yet, Biden’s office quickly came to the defense of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after he was criticized for taking paternity leave after adopting twins. Buttigieg is rumored to be one of the challengers in the next presidential election.
White House aides told CNN that they are not willfully turning the two Democrats against each other. The West Wing staff said, unlike Harris, Buttigieg did not stir up controversy on his own.
Still, opinions and reports about the vice presidency differed depending on who was asked.
In a statement provided to CNN, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Harris and her team “are off to the fastest and strongest start of any vice president I have seen. Anyone who has the honor of working closely with the vice president knows how her talents and determination have made a big difference in this administration.”
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