|.- Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president, has selected Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to be his running mate. |
Harris is the first Black woman, and the first person of Indian descent, to be selected as a running mate for a major party’s ticket. Harris’ mother was born in India, and her father was born in Jamaica. Harris is a staunch supporter of legal protection for abortion and has pushed Biden on that issue in recent months.
The choice was announced just shortly after 4:15 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, August 11.
“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked Kamala Harris — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” tweeted Biden on Tuesday.
Biden said that while serving as California’s attorney general, Harris worked with his late son, Beau.
“I watched as they took on the big banks, lifted up working people, and protected women and kids from abuse. I was proud then, and I'm proud now to have her as my partner in this campaign,” he said.
Before being selected to run with Biden, Harris made headlines for her numerous attacks on the former vice president during the primary debates. Harris was especially critical of Biden’s long-time support for the Hyde Amendment, which prevents the use of federal funds for abortions.
Biden supported the Hyde Amendment, both with his votes and publicly in writing and speeches, for over four decades. He reversed his position in June 2019, just one day after reaffirming his support for the policy. Harris was quick to point this out during the debate.
“Only since you’ve been running for president this time, [have you] said that you in some way would take that back or you didn’t agree with that decision you made over many, many years and this directly impacted so many women in our country,” said Harris.
Harris noted Biden’s previous reservations about unlimited legal protection to abortion, reservations which he abandoned during the Democratic primary process. Harris asked him during the primary “Do you now say that you have evolved and you regret that?”
As California attorney general, she drew criticism from the state Catholic conference by sponsoring a bill compelling pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise “free or low-cost” abortion services to their clients. That law was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2018.
The senator has also previously raised concerns about Biden’s character.
In April 2019, Harris stated that she believed women who have accused Biden of sexual misconduct during his time in the Senate and as vice president.
“I believe them and I respect them being able to tell their story and having the courage to do it,” she said at an event in Nevada. Biden himself denied ever acting “inappropriately” with women.
While in the Senate, Harris has served as a member of the Judiciary Committee, responsible for vetting candidates for federal judgeships. In 2018, Harris raised questions about the suitability of a candidate based on his membership of the Knights of Columbus.
In December 2018, Harris joined Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) in scrutinizing the candidacy of Brian C. Buescher, an Omaha-based lawyer nominated by President Trump to sit on the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.
The senators asked if belonging to the Catholic charitable organization could prevent judges from hearing cases “fairly and impartially.”
In her questions to Buescher, Harris described the Knights as “an all-male society” and asked if Buescher was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality” when he joined.
Prior to her election to the Senate in 2016, Harris served as the California attorney general from 2011-2016, and was the San Francisco attorney general from 2004-2011.
While she has cast herself as a “progressive” prosecutor, her tenure as AG has been a source of controversy during her political career on the national level.
Harris had a mixed record on the death penalty in California, and faced criticism for her polices which saw Californians imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses.
Harris came out in support for the legalization of marijuana in 2018. But during a debate in July, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) noted Harris had put “over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations” as attorney general, but laughed while confirming her own use of the drug in an interview.
Gabbard also pointed out that Harris “blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row,” referring to inmate Kevin Cooper. Cooper was convicted of a quadruple homicide and sentenced to death in 1983, despite considerable evidence of his innocence. Cooper requested additional DNA testing, which Harris blocked as attorney general.
In 2018, after she was elected to the Senate, she admitted she “felt awful” about her decision. Cooper is still on death row.
While Harris declined to pursue the death penalty on several occasions, in 2014 she explicitly defended the practice after a California district court found it unconstitutional.
"I am appealing the court's decision because it is not supported by the law, and it undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants,” said Harris, calling the decision a “flawed ruling.”
Harris has also pushed for laws that would criminalize the parents of truant children, who are disproportionately poor.
During her inaugural address in 2011, Harris stated that she was “putting parents on notice” that truancy would be dealt with as a crime by parents.
“If you fail in your responsibility to your kids, we are going to work to make sure you face the full force and consequences of the law,” she said.
Eight years later, during an interview on a podcast, Harris admitted that several parents were jailed thanks to the statewide anti-truancy law she sponsored, though she said she “regretted” it.
Since entering the Senate, Harris’ thinking has shifted, and she now says she supports ending mandatory minimum sentences along with championing other progressive criminal justice reforms.