First aired in the US rightwing media, which is on a perpetually hostile Kamala watch, the stories are based largely on their decreasing joint appearances now compared to the early days of what the President himself described as the Biden-Harris administration. They appeared together 38 times in February compared to just seven so far this month amid Biden’s rapidly declining poll numbers, with one outlet reporting that the vice president is allegedly annoyed that “she hasn’t been given any all-star portfolio,” and they are “divided by a lack of trust.”
The truth appears to be more prosaic. President Biden has entrusted his vice-president with so much work that some pundits feel she is overloaded, leaving her little time to do public events. In fact, on Tuesday evening, Harris passed up attending a Diwali event organized by Indiaspora, an Indian-American organisation, where several other US lawmakers, including Indian-American representatives Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamurthy, turned up.
On its part, the White House rubbished the stories, saying the two often have meetings that are not on their offices’ daily guidance. Officials also said the two meet weekly for lunch and the President fully supports all the tasks her has assigned to her — from containing illegal immigration to advancing voting rights. “She is his partner. She’s the first in the room, the last in the room. And he’s going to continue to work by her side to get it done,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a White House briefing earlier this month.
Still, speculation about growing distance abound — mainly on the basis of numbers. According to one account, the two had 20 joint appearances in January soon after the January 20 inauguration, and 38 joint public and private events each in February and in March. In August they met only 16 times; and that number was cut to half in September.
So far in October, they have had only had one public event open to the press; the other six have been closed meetings such as lunch or the daily briefing.
Describing the vice-president as “one of the most powerful people in the world,” Psaki said the President had conveyed many times that getting voting rights done, signing into law, is top of his agenda,” and Kamala is leading this effort. Harris is also entrusted with overseeing everything from immigration control to promoting Covid-19 vaccinations to climate change and space force.
One vice-presidential scholar told LA Times, from Kamala’s home state of Çalifornia, that he is not surprised her publicly announced events with Biden have declined, after she spent the early months seeking to “credentialize” herself by being seen with the President. For modern vice presidents to be effective, he said, they have to balance face time with the president and visibility elsewhere.
“Later on, once you develop an agenda, it’s predictable that you’re going to be outside trying to sell it. She’s trying to mobilize support for what the administration is doing,” Joel Goldstein, who has written two books about the vice presidency, said in reference to Kamala Harris’ increasing sorties across American to promote the administration’s agenda.
This month, for example, Harris traveled to Lake Mead in Nevada to discuss climate change and the drought — key components of Biden’s legislative agenda. She also flew to Newark to tour a Covid-19 vaccination site. Aside from handing hot button issues such as immigration control, she also has her hands on the newly formed space force.