Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s vice-presidential running mate. Here’s what the former presidential candidate ran on.
Eliza Relman Aug 11, 2020, 1:27 PM
- Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that Sen. Kamala Harris would be his vice-presidential running mate.
- The 55-year-old former California attorney general will be the first Black woman to be nominated by either major party for vice president.
- Harris ran for president in 2020 on a policy platform that included a public option for healthcare, universal paid leave, and salary increases for teachers.
- During the primary, Insider polling found that voters viewed Harris as among the most progressive candidates in the field and among the most prepared for the presidency.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Who is Kamala Harris?
Current job: US senator from California. Ran for president of the US as a Democratic candidate. On August 11, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced that Harris would be his vice-presidential running mate.
Family: Harris is married to Douglas Emhoff, a lawyer. She has two stepchildren.
Hometown: Oakland, California. https://2aec4639538a967976667bf5fb27a6aa.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Political party: Democratic.
Previous jobs: Attorney general of California from 2011 to 2017. San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011.
What policy positions did Harris run on?
- On healthcare:
- Harris originally said she supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill but announced in August 2019 she was “not comfortable” with it.
- She’s said she’d be open to a public option, rather than a single-payer system. She’s introduced legislation to expand mental healthcare and reduce racial disparities in maternal mortality.
- In July 2019, Harris laid out her proposal to allow the federal government to set prices for certain prescription medications to lower drug costs for American patients.
- She’s also laid out her healthcare plan, a form of Medicare for All which maintains a large role for private insurers, while expanding the program to cover more Americans. It has a 10-year phase-in period.
- On immigration:
- Harris has said she wants to “reexamine” and potentially overhaul Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But while serving as San Francisco’s district attorney, she supported a city policy that turned immigrant minors without authorization to live in the US over to ICE if they were arrested or believed to have committed a felony.
- Harris supports the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young people who come to the US illegally as children.
- Harris cosponsored the Reunite Act to reunify separated migrant families and has introduced legislation to increase oversight at immigrant detention centers and end the construction of new facilities. She’s also introduced a bill that would limit ICE’s ability to take actions harmful to unaccompanied migrant children.
- She opposes Trump’s border wall, which she’s called a “medieval vanity project.”
- On climate change:
- In February 2019, Harris signed on to the Green New Deal resolution, which hopes to transition the US to 100% clean and renewable energy in 10 years and stimulate the economy with millions of new jobs and an expanded social safety net.
- As California’s attorney general, she investigated whether Exxon Mobil lied about its research on climate change. She has a 100% lifetime score, based on her voting record, from the League of Conservation Voters.
- In September, Harris laid out her climate plan to make the US carbon-neutral by 2045, which would cost $10 trillion in private and public investment. She said she’d direct the Department of Justice to prosecute fossil-fuel companies.
- She supports a tax on carbon and suggested she’d allow states to decide whether they use nuclear energy.
- On campaign finance:
- Like a growing number of Democrats, Harris no longer takes donations from corporate political action committees as of April 2018. Nearly 65% of Harris’ campaign funding between 2015 and 2018 came from individual donors who gave more than $200, according to OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics. Just under 5% has come from corporate PACs.
- On abortion:
- Harris supports the right to an abortion and voted against a bill in the Senate that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
- Harris grilled Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on his position on abortion during his 2018 confirmation hearing.
- In May 2019, Harris proposed requiring states that have attempted to restrict abortion rights to receive approval from the Justice Department before they implement new abortion-related laws.
- On paid leave:
- Harris’ broad paid-leave plan includes giving new parents and other caregivers up to six months of paid time off work. She did not specify how much the plan would cost or precisely how she’d pay for it.
- On LGBTQ rights:
- Harris supports legalized same-sex marriage and did not defend California’s law that prohibited gay marriage while she was the state’s attorney general.
- She supported transgender people’s right to use the bathroom of their choice during her time as attorney general. But she requested that the government not move forward with providing a prison inmate a gender-reassignment surgery.
- As San Francisco district attorney, she created a hate-crimes unit to prosecute crimes against LGBTQ youth.
- On education:
- Harris has signed on to Sanders’ College for All Act, which would waive tuition for all students attending public colleges and universities whose families make $125,000 a year or less.
- She supports expanding some early childhood education programs and implementing nationwide universal prekindergarten.
- In her first major campaign policy proposal, Harris put forth a plan in March 2019 to dramatically raise teacher pay across the country, which would give the average teacher a $13,500 salary boost. The plan would cost $300 billion over a decade.
- On guns:
- Harris supports a ban on assault weapons and on the sale of high-capacity magazines.
- As California’s attorney general, she initiated a statewide gun sweep that confiscated weapons from those who had them illegally.
- Harris had promised that if she was elected, she would push for a law allowing Americans to request that a federal court restrict a person’s access to a gun if they’ve shown potential to commit domestic terrorism.
- On criminal-justice reform:
- Harris introduced the 2018 Access to Counsel Act, which would guarantee detained migrants access to an attorney.
- She cosponsored the 2018 Marijuana Justice Act, which would end the federal prohibition of marijuana. She supports clearing nonviolent marijuana-related charges from people’s records.
- Harris supports a moratorium on the death penalty under federal law and has called executions “immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.” But the executive branch has no authority over the vast majority of executions, which are carried out by states.
- Harris introduced a bill to encourage states to reform or replace their cash-bail system. She also cosponsored a federal anti-lynching bill that passed the Senate in 2018.
- Some of the most influential and controversial actions Harris took as a district attorney and attorney general:
- Pursued state legislation that threatened to prosecute parents of habitually truant elementary-school students.
- Did not pursue the death penalty for a man who killed a California police officer.
- Appealed a federal judge’s ruling that California’s death penalty was unconstitutional.
- Opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana before reversing course in 2018. (In 2015, she called for an end to the federal ban on medical marijuana, but she did not support the legalization of recreational use until 2018.)
- Defended the convictions of dozens of people even after they were proved not guilty.
- Fought prison releases after a federal court found unconstitutional overcrowding in California’s prisons.
- Harris unveiled a broad set of criminal-justice policies, including creating national standards for police conduct, lowering the prison population, raising standards for the treatment of prisoners, ending mandatory minimum sentencing, and abolishing private prisons.
- Harris presented her plan for criminal-justice reform at the September Democratic debate as one that would greatly reform the system and vowed to achieve it: “My plan is about making sure that in America’s criminal justice system, we de-incarcerate women and children, that we end solitary confinement, and that we work on keeping families intact. And as president of the United States, knowing the system from the inside, I will have the ability to be an effective leader and get this job complete,” she said.
- On trade:
- Harris opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguing that the deal wasn’t transparent and would have hurt California’s environmental-protection efforts. Trump withdrew the US from the partnership in 2017.
- Harris opposes Trump’s trade war with China and his tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. But she has accused China of engaging in “unfair industrial policies and outright theft of American intellectual property.”
- At the September Democratic debate, Harris slammed Trump on trade with a reference from a classic movie, saying, “Donald Trump in office on trade policy, you know, he reminds me of that guy in “The Wizard of Oz,” you know, when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude?”
- On foreign policy:
- She supports a “political solution” to the war in Afghanistan and wants to end US military involvement in the country. She voted against a Senate resolution condemning Trump’s withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
- She opposed Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. She’s said that Trump “got punked” by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
- She opposes US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen because Congress never approved American involvement in the conflict.
- Harris is a strong supporter of the Israeli government’s close ties to the US, calling the bond between the two countries “unbreakable.” She told a 2017 gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that she would “do everything in my power to ensure broad and bipartisan support for Israel’s security and right to self-defense.”
- On taxes:
- Harris has introduced her LIFT the Middle Class Act, which would give a $3,000 refundable tax credit to people making $50,000 or less a year and a $6,000 credit to couples making $100,000 or less. She said she would get rid of some cuts in Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to help pay for it. The plan would cost $2.8 trillion over a decade.
- She criticized the GOP tax cuts of 2017 as a “middle-class tax hike to line the pockets of already wealthy corporations and the 1%.”
- On housing:
- In July 2019, Harris proposed providing up to 4 million Black families whose neighborhoods have historically been redlined, or discriminated against, with up to $25,000 to help them buy a home.
What are Harris’ political successes?
- She extracted $25 billion from Wall Street to compensate California homeowners following the financial crisis.
- She won a $1.1 billion settlement against a for-profit-college chain over allegations of predatory and illegal practices.
- She’s become well-known as voice of the anti-Trump resistance. She’s endorsed a host of progressive policies, including Medicare for All and an overhaul of ICE.
- As California’s attorney general, Harris prioritized the prosecution of transnational gangs and weapons, drugs, and human traffickers.
How was Harris viewed by voters compared with the primary competition?
Insider conducted a number of polls to check in on how candidates were perceived in comparison with one another.
When we asked respondents in one poll to rank how far to the left or to the right they considered the candidates, Harris was generally considered to be one of the most left-leaning candidates in the field, somewhat in contrast to her prosecutorial history but plausibly owing to a push from her campaign to appeal to left-leaning voters.
Harris was listed among the most experienced candidates in the field when we asked respondents to rank the candidates based on how prepared they were for the rigors of the presidency, given what they knew about their history of public service and experience with government. And respondents placed Harris in the top five when asked how likable or personable they perceived the candidates to be.
How did Democratic voters feel about Harris’ qualifications?
Insider conducted polling about how voters felt about candidate attributes and qualifications. We asked respondents about a list of qualifications and if they made them more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate for president.
For example, among respondents who said they’d vote in the Democratic primary, 19% said a candidate being a college professor made them likelier to support them, while 4% said it made them less likely to, for a +15% net favorability. We can then see how different candidates’ resumes stack up compared to those preferences.
Attributes perceived as most valuable included her released tax returns (+43%), position in the Senate (+40%), status as a child of immigrants (+21%), and past as an attorney general (+13%), district attorney (+7%), and lawyer (+3%).
Attributes considered to be a liability based on the preferences of self-reported Democratic voters included her history as a prosecutor (-1%) and upbringing in a wealthy household (-42%).