What A Difference A VP Makes
When Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in as the 49th U.S. Vice President on January 20, 2021, she became the first woman, the first Black American and the first Asian American to occupy the office. Like former President Obama and then-VP Biden, VP Harris has worked hand-in-hand with President Biden and been critical to the effort to: enact policies to address economic, health, and education disparities; secure billions of dollars to support these efforts; designing a student loan forgiveness program that would be comprehensive and targeted; re-establish the US’s relationships with the global community; addressing root causes of migration; and galvanizing local and state government officials and advocates to provide reproductive care.
Before moving on to VP Harris’ enormous contributions which are detailed below, it is important to recognize that the mainstream media has been complicit in marginalizing and minimizing her critical role in President Biden’s and Democrats’ accomplishments. One of the most pervasive challenges in our country is the biased coverage of women politicians and especially women of color. VP Harris has been on the receiving end of such bias from the moment she entered the race for president and it has not stopped. For the past 2 years, many have spotlighted the double-sided media coverage of VP Kamala Harris which swings between erasure and a heightened criticism and scrutiny that white male politicians are rarely subjected to, especially former VPs. The media would rather talk about her laugh, her clothes or how she is “stuck” – a common and destructive narrative about powerful women than her many accomplishments. (And the vile, violent abuse she receives from actual and bot accounts on social media and the reluctance of these platforms to take down such posts are a disturbing reminder of how much our society accepts the mistreatment and degradation of women of color.)
Upshot: Many have come to believe that VP Harris has been doing nothing which is utterly false and fails to recognize that the rules and expectations are not the same for women and politicians of color. Here is just a sampling of the substantive and significant contributions VP Harris has made.
What VP Harris Has Been Doing:
- Protecting reproductive care by working with pro-choice advocates, state governors and attorney generals to coordinate, mobilize and defend reproductive rights.
- Leading foreign policy and national security efforts to re-establish diplomatic relationships around the world.
- Was a major player in developing the $300B student loan forgiveness program announced in August 2022.
- Organizing labor by leading the White House worker-labor union task force for the 2.1M federal employees and working closely with pro-labor Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to support and strengthen unions.
- Expanding broadband access and reducing costs for communities around the country to improve economic and health outcomes.
- Working towards immigration solutions by leading the effort to address root causes of immigration from Mexico and Central America.
- Advocating for climate change action by ensuring that environmental provisions of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act were retained in the final legislation.
- Improving maternal healthcare by ensuring that government agencies and legislation provide solutions.
- Launching economic and racial equality actions by working on economic justice actions with the Treasury Department.
- Improving COVID response, particularly in marginalized communities.
- Championing voter access and engagement for the November 2022 midterm elections.
- Leading community building and climate change efforts.
- Promoting space exploration and scientific innovation as the head of the National Space Council.
- Protecting reproductive care. Even before Roe v. Wade was overturned, VP Harris began working with constitutional law, privacy and technology experts to anticipate the ramifications and actions needed if Roe was overturned. She then began meeting weekly with pro-choice advocates, state governors and attorney generals to coordinate, mobilize and defend reproductive rights.
- Leading foreign policy and national security efforts. VP Harris has led the White House’s foreign policy and foreign relations efforts to re-engage and establish relationships with leaders in Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia, Japan, the Middle East, Australia, Europe and Africa which have been widely regarded as a huge success.
- Was a major player in developing the $300B student loan forgiveness program announced in August 2022. VP Harris has long been an advocate of student loan forgiveness, particularly for Pell Grant recipients and those who were harmed by predatory for-profit colleges.
- Organizing labor. She has also led the White House worker-labor union task force for the 2.1M federal employees and has worked closely with pro-labor Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to strengthen and support unions. Among other outcomes, as of Jan. 2022, 70K federal workers and 300K employees of federal contractors, about half of whom are Black and Hispanic, began to earn $15/ hour.
- Expanding broadband access and reducing costs. Leading the administration’s efforts on expanding broadband access which is critical to improved health and economic outcomes, VP Harris’ efforts have included securing $65B for broadband access in the Infrastructure and Jobs Act (passed in Nov. 2021) with $1.2B for 3M school children and $1B for tribal lands.
- Working towards immigration solutions. VP Harris has taken on one of the most challenging and volatile issues in the US: immigration. Leading the effort to address root causes of immigration from Mexico and Central America, her efforts have resulted in the formation of a new anti-corruption task force focused on countries in Central America to ensure aid dollars are well-spent, a human smuggling and trafficking task force, a program on women’s empowerment, and funding for housing and business in the Northern Triangle. VP also secured over $1.2 billion in U.S. investments in Central America to help stimulate economic growth.
- Advocating for climate change action. VP Harris played a key role in ensuring that environmental provisions of the Infrastructure and Jobs Act were retained in the final legislation, including provisions on clean water access and water infrastructure for communities that she authored as a senator.
- Improving maternal healthcare. VP Harris has long been an advocate for maternal healthcare and addressing systemic inequities that result in worse maternal outcomes for Black, Native American, and rural women. As a senator, Harris introduced the Maternal CARE Act and the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act which were key components of the Build Back Better Act and included a $3 billion investment in maternal health. (This passed in the House, but was blocked by Senate Republicans.) As VP, she has also been instrumental in ensuring that government agencies and legislation provide solutions. For instance, included in the 2022 Omnibus Spending bill was the Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act and an expansion of the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (Rural MOMS) program.
- Launching economic and racial equality actions. As VP, Harris has continued her work on economic justice with the Treasury Department, including helping with the launch of a new program directing $8.7B to 180 banks around the country that are either minority-owned or focus on underserved communities as part of the Emergency Capital Investment Program (which Harris worked to establish as a senator).
- Improving COVID response. VP has worked with local and state leaders and groups to improve COVID response equity in underserved communities including increasing vaccine rates and access.
- Championing voter access and engagement. VP Harris is leading the White House’s voting rights effort and voter turnout for the November 2022 midterm elections.
- Leading community building and climate change efforts. VP has been representing the administration around the country in launching economic development and climate resilience programs funded by the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS Act and other executive and agency actions.
- Promoting space exploration and scientific innovation. VP Harris heads up the National Space Council and has guided the Council’s efforts to develop and implement national space policy, and a strategy for the future, including promoting peaceful exploration of space and reducing the risk of miscalculation or conflict in space, addressing the climate crisis, and enhancing STEM education.
LAST UPDATED ON SEPTEMBER 20TH, 2022