Harris prepares for central role in Biden’s White House

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FIL - In this Nov. 7, 2020, file photo Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks in Wilmington, Del. Harris will make history Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, when she becomes the nations first Black, South Asian and female vice president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON – Kamala Harris will make history on Wednesday when she becomes the nation’s first female vice president — and the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to hold that office. But that’s only where her boundary-breaking role begins.

With the confluence of crises confronting Joe Biden's administration — and an evenly divided Senate in which she would deliver the tie-breaking vote — Harris is shaping up to be a central player in addressing everything from the coronavirus pandemic to criminal justice reform.

Symone Sanders, Harris' chief spokeswoman, said that while the vice president-elect's portfolio hasn't been fully defined yet, she has a hand in all aspects of Biden's agenda.

“There are pieces that Biden may specifically ask her to champion, but outside of that she is at the table for everything, involved in everything, and giving input and feedback and being a supportive partner to him on all pieces," she said.

People working closely with Harris on the transition resist the idea of siloing her into any specific issue early on, because the sheer number of challenges the Biden administration faces means it will be “all hands on deck” during their early months. They say she'll be involved in all four of the major priorities they’ve set out: turning around the economy, tackling COVID-19, and addressing climate change and racial justice.

“She has a voice in all of those. She has an opinion in all those areas. And it will probably get to a point where she is concentrating on some of the areas more specifically,” Sanders said. “But right now, I think what we’re faced with in this country is so big, it’s all hands on deck.”

Harris has been closely involved with all of Biden’s biggest decisions since winning the election in November, joining him for every one of his key meetings focused on Cabinet picks, the COVID-19 relief bill, security issues and more. The two talk over the phone nearly every day, and she travels to Delaware sometimes multiple times a week for transition events and meetings.

Those involved in the transition say both have taken seriously Biden’s insistence that he wants Harris to be the “last voice in the room” on key decisions. Biden is known to turn to Harris first during meetings to ask for her opinion or perspective on the matter at hand.