Senator and presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will address the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. As the convention plans to nominate the oldest presidential candidate in U.S. history, Harris’ views and record hold greater significance than any running mate since Harry Truman in 1944. What does the junior senator from California believe on key issues? Here are the facts you need to know.
Background: Kamala Devi Harris was born on October 20, 1964, in Oakland, California. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. from India, and her father immigrated from Jamaica. She attended both a black Baptist church and a Hindu temple growing up, and she lists The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis among her favorite books. In the early 1990s, Harris had an affair with California State Assembly Speaker Willie Brown; he was 60, and she was 29. In 1994, Brown appointed her to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, a position that paid $167,000 in 2020 dollars, and then to the California Medical Assistance Commission, which paid the equivalent of $120,700. She was elected district attorney of San Francisco in 2003 and California attorney general in 2010, when she was endorsed by democratic socialist activist Delores Huerta. Harris appeared to lose the 2010 election to Republican Steve Cooley but prevailed on the strength of mail-in ballots which arrived after all in-person ballots had been counted, winning by a razor-thin 0.8%. In 2013, Barack Obama called her the “best-looking attorney general in the country.” In 2014, she married attorney Douglas Emhoff, who is Jewish and has two children from his previous marriage. Harris won the 2016 election to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, defeating fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez. She called for then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign over sexual harassment allegations; she then took his seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Harris announced her bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on January 21, 2019, and within 24 hours, she raised $1.5 million. She attacked Joe Biden on racial busing and said that she believed the women who accused Biden of sexual harassment, but Harris plummeted in the polls and withdrew before the Iowa Caucus. Her campaign currently has $1 million in debt.
Overall ideology: Sen. Harris ranked as the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate in 2019, according to GovTrack.us, placing her to the left of democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.
Economics: Sen. Harris supports higher taxes and greater wealth redistribution. She would raise the top marginal tax rate, increase corporate taxes by 14%, raise the capital gains tax, expand the death tax, and impose a tax on stock transactions. Her proposed LIFT the Middle Class Tax Act would give families a “tax credit” of up to $6,000 a year, even if they never paid a dime in income tax. She voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. She supports Net Neutrality.
Harris would significantly increase the number of people dependent on the federal government. She supported a guaranteed income of $2,000 a month during the COVID-19 lockdown. She proposed legislation to increase food stamp benefits by 30% and eliminate federal cost-controls in American territories. She has proposed giving every American six months of taxpayer-funded paid medical and family leave, to be administered by a new Bureau of Children and Family Justice. She supports “free” college tuition at community colleges and four-year institutions for families making up to $125,000.
She opposed the update to the NAFTA free trade agreement known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act (USMCA) and introduced a bill to ban “price gouging” during a crisis.
Abortion: Sen. Harris would radically expand both abortion-on-demand and federal funding of abortion providers. Harris has a 0% rating from National Right to Life and the Family Research Council but a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America. She voted against the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which makes it illegal to abort a child after 20 weeks (at which time a child is able to feel pain), and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. As a presidential candidate, she proposed the so-called Reproductive Rights Act, which would require that states with a “history of violating Roe v. Wade obtain approval” from the U.S. Justice Department before enacting new pro-life laws. The initiative, which is modeled on the Voting Rights Act, would deform the federalist structure written into America’s founding documents. (The Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act’s pre-clearance provision in its 2013 Shelby County v. Holder ruling.) She has said, “We must repeal the Hyde Amendment,” which protects U.S. taxpayers from being compelled to fund abortion. As California AG, she allowed state officials to raid the offices of the Center for Medical Progress after undercover journalists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt filmed Planned Parenthood officials – who received $617 million in taxpayer funding – discussing the dismemberment and sale of aborted babies’ body parts. Harris drafted Assembly Bill 1671, in collaboration with Planned Parenthood, which punishes those who distribute undercover videos.
Religious liberty: Sen. Harris would threaten the ability of believers to live out their faith in the public or private sector. She has questioned whether traditional Christians can serve in government. In 2018, she and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, badgered judicial nominee Brian C. Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, classifying the Catholic fraternal organization as an “all-male organization” that “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and “marriage equality.” Belonging to an organization faithful to the unbroken teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, they said, called into question whether he could apply secular laws “fairly and impartially.” Critics said this came close to violating the Constitution’s clause affirming that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.”
Harris allows little more room for conscience rights in the private sector. She filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case stating that the constitutional right to religious liberty is “personal, relating only to individual believers,” not to “the exercise of such inherently personal rights by ordinary, for-profit business corporations.” She co-sponsored the Equality Act, which would amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to add sexual orientation and gender identity – something effectively rendered moot by Justice Neil Gorsuch’s opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County. Gorsuch acknowledged this could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that hold to traditional Christian moral precepts. Then-Solicitor General Donald Verrilli admitted the tax-exempt status of traditional nonprofits is “going to be an issue” while arguing in favor of the landmark case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Obergefell.
Environmentalism: Harris would significantly increase government’s footprint in Americans’ lives under the cover of environmental policy. In July 2019, Harris partnered with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to introduce legislation paving the way for the Green New Deal. Her proposal to switch the United States to 100% renewable energy by 2030 carries a $10 trillion price tag. She co-sponsored a resolution to accept the Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change’s sweeping, top-down model of environmental action as a basis for U.S. policy.
National healthcare: Harris co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill and expressed a willingness to abolish private healthcare insurance – but later reversed her position on the issue. Her “Choose Medicare” Act would increase Obamacare subsidies, and her “State Public Option” Act would allow people to buy into Medicaid. Harris initially said the taxpayer-funded national healthcare program should be open to illegal immigrants, potentially creating the first international healthcare system.
Unions: She supports unionization via card check – rather than secret elections – a provision of Sen. Sanders’ Workplace Democracy Act. She would have held McDonald’s responsible for the actions of its franchisees, permanently altering the franchiser-franchisee relationship. She supports the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights but opposes the gig economy, targeting Uber’s business model.
Affirmative Action: Sen. Harris would increase the number of government and private programs that award favors on the basis of race instead of merit, the opposite of equal justice under the law. Harris tried to eviscerate California’s state ban on Affirmative Action (Proposition 209, drawn up by Ward Connerly and enacted by California’s voters in 1996). She filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to allow colleges and universities to consider an applicant’s ethnicity in admissions. Harris wants to establish a federal COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force to investigate the disparate impact the coronavirus has had on communities of color. Harris also wanted greater funding of minority businesses by the Paycheck Protection Program.
Second Amendment: Sen. Harris believes that the Second Amendment does not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms. “the Second Amendment provides only a militia-related right to bear arms,” she wrote in an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Heller decision; the justices sided against her. As San Francisco district attorney (2004-2011), Harris established special units to prosecute hate crimes, environmental crimes, and violations of the state’s tough gun control laws. She demanded a 90-day minimum sentence for anyone caught carrying a concealed weapon. “If you carry an illegal gun in the city of San Francisco and your case is brought to my office, you are going to spend time in jail. Period,” she said. She opposes gun shows. She has said that thoughts and prayers after mass shootings “won’t suffice.” She wants to make it more difficult to obtain a weapon if you are placed on a domestic terrorist list and accused of “clear evidence of dangerousness.”
Police/law enforcement: Sen. Harris refused to seek the death penalty for a man who murdered police officer Isaac Espinoza. She has accused multiple law enforcement agencies of civil rights abuses and established an online platform called Open Justice, which focused on police brutality statistics.
Illegal immigration: Supports Sanctuary Cities. Has said crossing the border illegally should be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Marriage: Harris refused to defend Proposition 8, the 2008 California state constitutional amendment stating that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”
Partisanship and civility: Sen. Harris ranks as the fifth-most partisan senator of the last 25 years, according to the Lugar Center, again just a notch above Bernie Sanders. In a 2018 talk show appearance, Ellen Degeneres asked, “If you had to be stuck in an elevator with either President Trump, Mike Pence, or Jeff Sessions, who would it be?” Harris replied, “Does one of us have to come out alive?”
Supreme Court/judges: Sen. Harris voted against Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Constitutional order: Sen. Harris has raised the possibility of abolishing the Electoral College, invalidating the constitutional order established by our Founding Fathers to assure a candidate has support from a broad cross-section of the country rather than pandering to one large, populous region.
All in all, Harris’ record and policy prescriptions are far from those of a “pragmatic moderate.”