Politics

Kamala Harris’ Views on Abortion, the Economy, and More

Vice President Kamala Harris is now the leading Democratic standard-bearer in the 2024 elections after President Joe Biden ended his reelection bid and endorsed her on Sunday.

Read More: Why Joe Biden Dropped Out

While largely supporting Biden’s policies over the past four years, Harris, 59, was once criticized for having few firm ideological convictions. She is largely seen as a moderate Democrat.

Harris’ long record in public office—from being San Francisco’s district attorney in 2003, to becoming California state attorney general in 2011, to a Senator from California in 2017, and then Vice President—offers more clues on how she may lead as Democratic nominee and President.

Here’s what we know about Harris’ policy positions.

Abortion

Harris has consistently supported abortion rights throughout her career, and has been seen as the stronger reproductive rights advocate compared to Biden. As a Senator, she co-sponsored legislation that would ban states from imposing restrictions on abortion rights, and voted against a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

As Vice President, she condemned the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—and became the White House’s leading voice on reproductive health rights.

Earlier this year, Harris visited a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Minnesota, believed to be the first time a sitting U.S. Vice President visited an abortion provider.

Artificial intelligence

The Biden-Harris administration has sought to regulate artificial intelligence, most notably passing a sweeping executive order in October promising to curb threats stemming from AI. And Harris has become the face of some of these key announcements, saying in March that U.S. federal agencies must prove that their AI tools are not harmful to the public.

The Republican party has pledged to repeal the executive order, despite public opinion reflecting widespread, bipartisan support of limits on AI development.

China

Harris is likely to continue the Biden Administration’s approach to counter China’s growing influence around the world, often echoing U.S. condemnations of Chinese activities in the Indo-Pacific, and advocating for “de-risking” from Beijing.

As a Senator, Harris backed legislation promoting human rights in Hong Kong and sanctioning individuals responsible for human rights abuses against Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang region.

In 2022, when Vice President Harris met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the APEC Summit, she reiterated Biden’s statement that “we must maintain open lines of communication to responsibly manage the competition between our countries.” Days later, she visited the Philippines in what was seen as a message to China that the U.S. will continue to support the Southeast Asian country in the face of increasing aggression from Beijing in the contested South China Sea.

She has called China’s actions in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and Taiwan Strait “disturbing.” During a visit to a naval base in Japan in 2022, Harris reiterated U.S. commitment to “continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, consistent with our long-standing policy.”

Climate change

Climate change is one of the hallmarks of Harris’ political career—an area of interest that can be traced back to her time suing oil giants as San Francisco’s district attorney and later attorney general.

As a Senator, Harris was one of the early co-sponsors of the Green New Deal, a blueprint for clean energy transition introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey. She also tried—and failed—to pass the Climate Equity Act, which called for an independent Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability to support communities vulnerable to the climate crisis.

During her presidential campaign in 2019, Harris proposed a $10 trillion plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which includes a climate pollution fee, and the ending of federal fossil fuels subsidies. 

As Vice President, she has advocated publicly for climate action while engaging in behind-the-scenes conversations with officials to facilitate climate legislation, as well as attending private events with environmental leaders. Last December, while attending the COP28 climate summit, Harris announced a $3 billion pledge from the U.S. to the Green Climate Fund.

Crime

Early on in her career, Harris developed a tough-on-crime reputation as district attorney in California, having boasted about raising conviction rates. She also supported a controversial anti-truancy program that prosecuted the parents of kids who were missing school, which disproportionately affected families of color.

Harris later tried to steer her reputation into one of a “progressive prosecutor.” Before becoming the Vice President, she had called for an investigation into police shootings and opposition to the death penalty—along with a notable acknowledgement of the racial inequalities undergirding the criminal justice system.

“My entire career has been spent making needed reforms and fighting for those who too often are voiceless—from young people arrested for the first time and getting them jobs instead of jail, to grieving black mothers who wanted justice for their child’s murder as the system ignored their pain,” Harris had said during her presidential campaign in 2019. 

Harris, who is the first Black Vice President—and who has faced both sexist and racist attacks from her political opponents—has also previously addressed the issue of racial justice in the country. “I don’t think America is a racist country,” she said during a television interview. “But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country and its existence today.”

Gun control

Since 2023, Harris has overseen the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention created by Biden and remained a prominent face of the Administration’s gun control efforts. (The Biden-Harris Administration in 2022 passed the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the country’s first major gun safety law in nearly three decades.)

In March, during a visit to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the site of a mass shooting in 2018, Harris announced the launch of the National Extreme Risk Protection Order Resource Center to support the enforcement of state red flag laws—which permits the temporary seizure of at-risk persons’ firearms—and called on more states to pass such red flag laws.

Economy, taxes, and inflation

Harris has vigorously championed assistance to low- and middle-income Americans. As a Senator, she introduced the LIFT the Middle Class Act, which proposed tax credits of $3,000 per person for most middle- and working-class Americans. She was also an early proponent for universal healthcare and forgiving student debt.

As Vice President, she supported the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act and recently announced a series of measures to make housing more affordable (another issue that she has long pushed for).

In 2020, Harris was one of the few senators who voted against Trump’s U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, saying that it did not sufficiently protect American workers nor addressed climate change. 

Harris, who kickstarted in April an Economic Opportunity Tour across the country, has touted the Biden Administration’s record on key economic issues, including supporting small businesses, job creation, infrastructural investment, healthcare accessibility, and erasing student loan debt.

Immigration

Biden in 2021 had deputized Harris to oversee and solve the root causes of migration from Latin American countries. (Republicans mistakenly called her the “border czar” because of this appointment.) 

In 2021, speaking alongside then-Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Harris said: “I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.” The Biden-Harris administration continues to use a Trump-era rule to turn back most migrant adults. That approach has not sat well with Democrats and migrant rights groups, which advocated for the right of migrants to seek asylum in the U.S.

In March, she announced over $1 billion to respond to the causes of migration and create economic opportunities in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, bringing the total amount of commitments to the program to $5.2 billion since May 2021.

Harris has also backed a bipartisan border security deal aimed at reducing border crossings. The bill had been rejected twice this year, amid Republican opposition and Democratic divisions.

Israel-Hamas war

Younger voters, progressives, and Arab Americans may be more receptive to Harris’ candidacy given their opposition to Biden’s strong backing of Israel. 

Former officials and analysts say that Harris appears more willing to criticize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the high death toll in Gaza and express empathy for the plight of Palestinians, NBC News reported. Around 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, while at least 38,000 Palestinians have been killed since then, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, figures the U.S. and U.N. deem credible.

But Aaron David Miller, an expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told NBC News that a Harris presidency would not result in a major change in policy. “When it comes to Israel, she has very moderate views,” Miller said. “To the left of what Biden is prepared to do but way to the right of those who argue we need to impose costs and consequences on Israel to make it clear we’re the superpower and they’re not.”

LGBTQ+ rights

Harris is a staunch supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, having spoken out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. As Vice President, she has hosted Pride Month receptions, and in 2023, she visited the famed Stonewall Inn in New York to pledge support for the local LGBTQ+ community.

But Harris has also been criticized by LGBTQ+ rights advocates for writing legal briefs that sought to deny gender-affirming surgery to trans inmates during her stint as California Attorney General.

Ukraine war

Harris has followed the Biden Administration’s policy on Ukraine. In an interview with NBC News earlier this year, Harris was asked whether Ukraine can survive a year without American support, to which she responded: “Ukraine needs our support, and we must give it.” Last month, the Vice President represented the U.S. at the Summit of Peace in Ukraine, where she met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in support of Kyiv. Harris subsequently announced a U.S. commitment of $1.5 billion to help Ukraine’s energy system, humanitarian needs, and civilian security.

She is a vocal critic of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine and, most recently, for the death of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny in a penal colony. “Whatever story they tell, let us be clear: Russia is responsible,” Harris said in February.

Voting rights

Harris has led the Biden Administration’s initiative for federal voting rights and increasing ballot access, a task she asked Biden for in 2021. While a voter legislation bill failed to clear the Senate in 2022, Harris has repeatedly convened with civil rights leaders and outlined strategies “to ensure Americans have the information they need to vote, promote voter participation for students, protect election workers, and fight voter suppression laws.”


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