Political Issues

Kamala Harris Is Making History—Here’s How Her Views and Policies Affect Your Well-Being

Kara Jillian Brown

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Photo: Getty Images / JEFF KOWALSKY / Contributor // Mario Tama / Staff // Well+Good Creative

Sen. Kamala Harris of California is the first Black woman and the first South Asian woman to be selected as the vice-presidential running mate for a major party presidential ticket. Although Harris was a sharp critic of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during her own bid for the White House, the two have joined forces to unseat incumbent President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

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.

As the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, Harris’ selection is meaningful for many people in more ways than one. In a video posted to Twitter Tuesday, Harris says her mother raised to take action against injustice.

“That’s why, when I saw a broken justice system, I became a lawyer to try and fix it. It’s why during the foreclosure crisis, I took on the big banks, as California’s Attorney General. It’s why as United States Senator, I have fought to represent people like my mother. People who politicians often overlook, or don’t take seriously,” says Sen. Harris. “As Joe says, we’re in a battle for the soul of this nation. But together, it’s a battle we can win—we just have to take action.”

At a campaign event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday, Harris shared her excitement to join Biden in the race.

“I am incredibly honored by this responsibility, and I’m ready to get to work,” she says. “After the most competitive primary in history, the country received a resounding message that Joe was the person to lead us forward. And Joe, I’m so proud to stand with you. And I do so mindful of all the heroic and ambitious women before me, whose sacrifice, determination, and resilience makes my presence here today even possible.”

Here’s how Democratic nominee for vice president 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.

Biden’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 Sen. 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 Rep. 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.

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