President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris attempted a less-than-convincing display of unity Monday, one day after a report described Harris as increasingly isolated inside the White House.
During a signing ceremony for the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, Biden and Harris briefly put an arm around each other’s shoulders as they walked across the South Lawn to the stage.
However, a noticeable gap emerged after a few seconds as Harris appeared to veer slightly away from the president in view of approximately 800 lawmakers and invited guests, as well as the White House press corps.
After they hit the stage, an effusive Harris praised Biden for helping to maneuver the legislation through a narrowly divided Congress.
“From the very start you welcomed Democrats, independents and Republicans to meet with us in the Oval Office,” the vice president said. “You welcomed ideas. You welcomed debate, all in the service of getting this bill done.”
“And here is what I know to be true, Mr. President, you are equal parts believer and builder’” gushed Harris. “And because you are, we are all better off. On behalf of our nation, thank you, Mr. President.”
Fewer than 24 hours earlier, CNN had reported that Biden was sidelining Harris from crucial meetings while dumping politically dangerous items into her lap. As one former top aide to Harris put it to the cable network: “They’re consistently sending her out there on losing issues in the wrong situations for her skill set.”
According to the outlet, Harris had not attended most of the meetings Biden held with members of Congress as he attempted to negotiate the infrastructure bill’s passage. At one point on Nov. 5, with the White House attempting to lock down crucial votes in the House, Harris visited a NASA facility in suburban Maryland.
Other Harris allies complained to CNN that they felt she was not getting the same level of support from the White House compared to other members of the administration, especially when it came to her approach to the border crisis.
“It’s hard to miss the specific energy that the White House brings to defend a white man, knowing that Kamala Harris has spent almost a year taking a lot of the hits that the West Wing didn’t want to take themselves,” a former Harris aide told CNN, referring to the Biden administration springing to defend Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for taking paternity leave amid the global supply chain crisis.
Buttigieg is considered by some to be a potential challenger to Harris for the Democratic presidential nomination either in 2024 or 2028.
Shortly before Monday’s ceremony, White House press secretary Jen Psaki described Harris as a “key partner” in the administration, but declined to say whether the vice president was happy in her role.
“There’s been a lot of reports out there, and they don’t reflect his [Biden’s] view or our experience with the vice president,” said Psaki, who added that Biden “relies on the vice president for her advice, for her counsel … She’s not looking for a cushy role here. No vice president is, no president is.”
At the conclusion of her remarks Monday, Harris embraced Biden before leaving the stage and taking a seat in the audience.