President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris may have been fierce rivals in the Democratic primary, but now, as they prepare to take control of the White House, they say they are full partners who agree on how to approach the country’s most pressing issues.
“Look, there’s not a single decision I’ve made yet about personnel or about how to proceed that I haven’t discussed it with Kamala first,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday.
“That’s true,” Harris responded with a smile and nod in the duo’s first joint interview since being elected.
Biden and Harris had a memorably tense exchange at a 2019 primary debate when she confronted him over his decades-old fight against busing to desegregate schools. She delivered a pointed attack that drew from her own experience with busing, which caught Biden visibly off guard and put him on the defensive.
But all seemed forgiven when Biden clinched the Democratic nomination last spring and time came to choose a running mate. With Biden’s selection of Harris, the senator from California would make history as the first woman, first Black woman and first person of South Asian descent to be elected vice president.
“First of all, I understand how campaigns can sometimes get a little out of whack a little bit. And as I told her, you know, because you asked the question, I don’t hold grudges,” Biden said, dismissing any notion there is lingering tension from the primary campaign.
The President-elect told Tapper there hadn’t been any surprises working together “because we had the discussion about this beforehand.” He said he and Harris had discussed at length their views on foreign policy, on domestic policy and on intelligence, and he praised her experience working on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Biden said he and Harris are “simpatico on our philosophy of government and simpatico on how we want to approach these issues that we’re facing.” He said that just as when he and President Barack Obama had disagreed, he and Harris speak about their disagreements in private.
Harris said she and Biden have an understanding that before any big decision is made, she will be the last person in the room to speak to him. Biden often talks about the same understanding he had with Obama.
“We are full partners in this process. And I will tell you that the President-elect has been, since the first day he asked me to join him on the ticket, been very clear with me that he wants me to be the first and the last in the room. And so on every issue that impacts the American people I will be a full partner to the President-elect and the President, and whatever our priorities are I will be there to support him and support the American people,” Harris said.
Biden spoke about the range of pressing issues his administration is gearing up to tackle on day one, and described a working partnership with Harris where responsibilities will be shared.
“Whatever the most urgent needs is that I’m not able to attend to, I have confidence of being turning to her,” Biden said of Harris.
He continued, “It wasn’t that Barack said, ‘Well, you know, Joe, we’re going to have a stimulus and I want you to handle it.’ It was, ‘We’ve got to get this stimulus passed, I’m working on this. Look, Joe, you take it. OK? This is what I want you to do.’ “