WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris said Wednesday that an important part of her job is the fact that she “may have to take over” if President Biden is unable to complete his term in office — and that she’s ready to do so if required.
Harris was pressed on her readiness for the Oval Office during an overseas trip — after she initially tried to deflect a question about the 80-year-old Biden’s age by pointing to his legislative accomplishments.
“Questions about the president’s age often go hand in hand with questions about how you would step in the role if necessary. Do you feel prepared for that possibility? Has serving as vice president prepared you for that job?” Associated Press reporter Chris Megerian asked Harris.
“Yes,” replied the 58-year-old vice president in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she is representing Biden at the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
“And how would you describe that process?” the reporter asked.
“Well, first of all, let’s — I’m answering your hypothetical, but Joe Biden is going to be fine. So that is not going to come to fruition,” Harris said.
“But let us also understand that every vice president — every vice president — understands that when they take the oath, that they must be very clear about the responsibility they may have to take over the job of being president. I am no different.”
Eight of the 45 men who have served as president died in office — four by assassination and four from natural causes.
Biden, already the oldest-ever president, turns 81 in November.
Politicians in Washington typically refrain from engaging in hypotheticals about the potential death of elderly figures for fear of attracting criticism.
For example, Trump White House aides regularly were asked about the failing health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her death in 2020, but would refuse to comment, saying privately they feared being viewed as “vultures.”
Harris has even lower favorability ratings than Biden, according to the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, which finds that 40.7% of the public approves of her work, versus 41.7% who approve of her boss.
Biden is seeking a second term in next year’s election, even though he would be 86 upon leaving office.
He reportedly has been unsatisfied with Harris, despite praising her in public.
“A point of tension in their relationship is that I don’t think that the president sees her as somebody who takes anything off of his plate” due to a “fear of messing up,” a former White House official told Reuters in May.
Biden vented to a friend about his second-in-command in 2021 after he heard that her husband, Douglas Emhoff, was complaining about tasks assigned to her, including mitigating illegal migration and pushing for a federal voting rights law, Whipple wrote.
“Biden was annoyed,” the book says. “He hadn’t asked Harris to do anything he hadn’t done as vice president — and she’d begged him for the voting rights assignment.”
Biden selected Harris, the first female and second non-white VP, as his running mate in 2020 despite an acrimonious primary in which she blasted him for opposing federally mandated desegregation through busing students to different school districts. Read more here…