Although Harris was a sharp critic of President-elect Joe Biden during her own bid for the White House, the two joined forces to successfully unseat incumbent President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, declaring victory on November 7 after days of vote counting and uncertainty.
"While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last." —Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
As the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris's election is meaningful for many people in more ways than one. Harris says her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, raised to take action against injustice.
"When she came here from India at the age of 19, maybe she didn’t quite imagine this moment," said Harris during her impassioned speech on Saturday in Wilmington, Delaware. "But she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible."
Harris began her remarkable career of firsts prosecuting child sexual assault cases in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. She later served as the first woman elected District Attorney of San Francisco and subsequently the first Black person and first woman elected California Attorney General. She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 (as the second Black woman and the first South Asian person), and serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Kamala Harris, 56, America's first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president-elect
"I am thinking about [my mother] and about the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women—who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight—women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all,” said Harris. "Tonight, I reflect on their struggle, their determination and the strength of their vision—to see what can be unburdened by what has been—I stand on their shoulders," she said.
Kamala Harris addresses the nation for the first time as vice president-elect:
In her remarks, Vice President-elect Harris promised the American people that she is up to the task, in support of Joe Biden, as the hard work begins "to rebuild our economy so it works for working people. To root out systemic racism in our justice system and society. To combat the climate crisis. To unite our country and heal the soul of our nation," she said.
Here's how Vice President-elect Kamala Harris views issues related to your health and well-being
1. Health care
During her presidential bid, Kamala Harris announced her version for "Medicare For All." Unlike Bernie Sanders' plan that would virtually do away with private insurers, Harris opted for a government-run system that would still allow private insurers to compete. Her plan would have covered all medically necessary services, including emergency room visits, doctor visits, and comprehensive reproductive health-care services.
The Biden-Harris administration's current plan is to protect and build upon The Affordable Care Act. During the Wednesday event, Harris shared her commitment to expanding the act.
Harris has also been extremely critical of big pharma. She's voiced concern over people not taking their prescribed medications because of issues with costs. She and Biden both hope to crack down on pharmaceutical price gouging and ensure people have access to the drugs they need.
She also seeks to protect reproductive rights. Harris proposed that states and localities with a history of violating Roe v. Wade should need to obtain approval from the Department of Justice before any abortion law or practice can take effect.
2. Law enforcement
Kamala Harris has long come under fire for her history as a prosecutor. Recently, as a U.S. senator, she has been more vocal about reforming the criminal justice system advocating for the legalization of marijuana, ending cash bail systems, and eliminating the death penalty. In the months following the death of George Floyd, she's been a vocal advocate for police reform. However, her history as a district attorney and state attorney general in California paints a different picture.
In 2014, she protected the death penalty by repealing a ruling that the penalty was unconstitutional. She also declined to take a position on a ballot initiative that reduced certain low-level felonies to misdemeanors (she's since said that because she participated in writing the language of the proposition she felt it was a conflict of interest to have a position on it). Harris also opposed a bill requiring her office to investigate shootings involving officers and refused to support statewide standards regulating the use of police body cameras.
3. Climate change
Kamala Harris has aligned herself with the progressive views of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in support of the Green New Deal, a sweeping proposal to address the climate crisis. In July 2019, Sen. Harris and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez introduced legislation to establish the Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability, which would work to ensure that climate change plans benefit low-income communities. Earlier this month, they introduced the Climate Equity Act with similar goals.
"COVID-19 has laid bare the realities of systemic racial, health, economic, and environmental injustices that persist in our country,” says Harris. “The environment we live in cannot be disentangled from the rest of our lives, and it is more important than ever that we work toward a more just and equitable future. That is why, as we combat the climate crisis and build a clean economy; we must put justice and equity first. I’m proud to partner with Ocasio-Cortez on this comprehensive proposal to empower communities that have been neglected by policymakers for far too long."
At Wednesday's event, she said that she and Biden plan to "create millions of jobs and fight climate change through a clean energy revolution."
4. Financial wellness
Kamala Harris and Joe Biden both support a $15 federal minimum wage. Though states like Massachusetts and California have already established a $15 minimum wage, the federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009.
"The minimum wage must be a living wage, and the current rate of $7.25 makes it impossible to support a family," says Harris. "Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. That means we've got to change a system that forces a mom trying to keep a roof over the head and food on the table to hold down two jobs just to earn $15,000 a year. The ladder of economic opportunity is broken in this country, but this legislation will help fix it."
To bolster the economic rights of women, Harris hopes to close the pay gap, ensure workers have access to paid family and medical leave, and make quality child care affordable.
5. Gun Safety
Harris, who is herself a gun owner, stands in support of comprehensive gun safety laws.
"We are being offered a false choice," says Harris. "You're either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want to take everyone's guns away. It's a false choice that is born out of a lack of courage from leaders who must recognize and agree that there are some practical solutions to what is a clear problem in our country."
Harris supports banning assault rifles, instituting universal background checks, and the repeal of the NRA’s corporate gun manufacturer and dealer immunity bill.
Published August 12, 2020; updated November 9, 2020.
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