Harris rose rapidly in California politics, from San Francisco district attorney to California attorney general to U.S. senator. Democrats celebrated her sharp questions for then-Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh during his emotional 2018 confirmation process, but many are skeptical of her record as attorney general — which included defending California’s death penalty and advocating for a controversial truancy policy. Harris, 54, would become the first woman, the first person of Asian heritage and the first black woman to be president.
In a primary field chock full of big ideas, Harris hopes her “3 a.m. agenda” will show middle-class Americans that she is the one they can count on to deliver results. Her poll numbers rose after the first Democratic presidential debate, in which she confronted former vice president Joe Biden about his record on race, segregation and school busing. Since then, she has fallen back. Harris is now investing heavily in Iowa, hoping for a strong performance there in February.
In a nod to her experience as a prosecutor, Harris’s $10 trillion climate action plan would strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department so they could bring civil litigation against fossil fuel companies. Her plan aims for the United States to be carbon-neutral by 2045 and suggests electric vehicles and clean energy tax credits as solutions. The proposal also requires that the Congressional Budget Office assess how shifts toward a clean economy could disproportionately harm poorer communities — one component in Harris’s larger effort to consider the racial and socioeconomic inequities at play in the climate crisis.
Harris’s K-12 education platform makes teacher pay a priority. She said she would put $315 billion over the next decade toward raising teachers’ salaries. “Paying teachers for the full value of their work isn’t just a good strategy to improve education — it’s central to building an economy that works for working people,” she wrote in a March op-ed in The Washington Post. Harris, a Howard University alum, also has outlined plans to bolster historically black colleges and universities through initiatives such as investments in STEM education.
Like many other Democratic White House hopefuls, Harris is skeptical of military involvement abroad and has said that President Trump had damaged U.S. credibility among world leaders. The senator has said she would consider targeted sanctions relief in North Korea and would stand up against human rights abuses in China. Harris described the United States’ greatest foreign policy accomplishment in a Q&A with Foreign Affairs: “The greatest U.S. foreign policy accomplishment has been the post-war community of international institutions, laws, and democratic nations we helped to build.”
Harris has said she is open to the broad changes proposed by fellow candidates such as eliminating the electoral college, getting rid of the filibuster and adding justices or term limits to the Supreme Court. “If they fail to act, as president of the United States, I am prepared to get rid of the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal,” she said during a CNN climate crisis town hall meeting in September.
After fielding criticism for her inconsistent and ambiguous answers about her position on health care, Harris announced her own plan in July. Her version of Medicare-for-all would guarantee insurance coverage for everyone — including undocumented immigrants – and would aim to limit out-of-pocket medical costs. But in a break from the more liberal wing of her party, Harris outlines a role for private insurance companies in the market by allowing them to offer Medicare plans. Her plan would phase in over 10 years, a longer timeline than Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all proposal.
Harris was the first 2020 candidate to explain how she would use executive powers to change the country’s immigration policy. Her plan includes expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and changing dreamers’ immigration status to “lawful immigrants” through executive action. Like the more progressive wing of the 2020 field, Harris has advocated to repeal the criminal statute for crossing the border without papers. She has also called for an overhaul of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.