With Impeachment Trial And Relief Plan On Deck, Harris Stresses Need To 'Multitask'

Twelve decades ago, thousands and thousands of people filled the National Mall to watch Barack Obama create history as the nation's first Black president.

With Impeachment Trial And Relief Plan On Deck, Harris Stresses Need To 'Multitask'

Twelve decades ago, thousands and thousands of people filled the National Mall to watch Barack Obama create history as the nation's first Black president.

However, if Harris takes the oath, the mall will likely be nearly empty.

A towering pandemic had led President-elect Joe Biden and Harris to urge supporters to see the inauguration from home. Now, after a deadly siege of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Trump, tens of thousands of National Guard members are deployed to protect the transfer of power contrary to more violence.

The brazen effort to obstruct Congress from certifying Biden and Harris' November election success was unprecedented. But for Harris, the undercurrents of hatred and racism it symbolized weren't.

"It had been the exact same thing that went through my head once I saw Charlottesville. I mean, it's the same thing that went through my head once I saw an image of Emmett Till," Harris told NPR in an interview Thursday, when asked how she responded to pictures of the Confederate flag being sporadically through the Senate's hallways.

"Sadly, it isn't the first time I have observed a demonstration like what you are describing in the history of our nation," she added. "And also it is -- it is a reminder that we still have a lot of work to perform."

Much like Biden, Harris is made to take the oath of office outside, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, despite security concerns that have contributed to the garrison of soldiers inside the building for the first time since the Civil War. "I presume we cannot return to those who'd attempt to make us afraid of who we are," she explained.

And, like Biden, Harris is equally determined to move forward with an ambitious legislative agenda despite the fact that the early weeks of the administration will likely also find a second Senate impeachment trial of Trump.

"We know how to multitask ," Harris said. "We have to multitask, which means, as with anyone, we have a lot of priorities and we need to see through them."

Harris spoke to NPR on the afternoon Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion rescue package that would extend unemployment benefits, issue yet another round of lead stimulus payments, spend billions on coronavirus vaccination and testing efforts, and increase the national minimum wage to $15, one of a number of other provisions.

The entire interview, including Harris' thoughts on last week's attack along with the step she is calling the Biden government's"highest priority," is under.

Interview Transcript
I want to begin with last week with the Capitol attack.

It was horrific. It was a day that wherein we witnessed an assault on America's democracy, a day when we witnessed the terror that a few can wreak on so many. And it was probably, you know, it will be in history listed as one of the worst days in terms of an attack on the integrity of the democracy.

You are, naturally, going to become the first woman of color to serve as vice president, and I'm wondering exactly what went through your mind seeing racist symbols, Confederate flags, parading through the Senate hallways where you've spent the last four decades?

I mean, it had been the same thing that went through my mind when I saw Charlottesville. I mean, it's the same thing that went through my head when I saw a picture of Emmett Till. Sadly, it is not the first time I have seen a demonstration just like what you are describing in the history of our nation. And and it's -- it is a reminder that we still have a lot of work to perform.

Awaiting, we now have troops quartered in the Capitol for the first time as the Civil War, there are far more frightening details about last week and future threats coming out daily. But President-elect Biden is insisting that the inauguration go ahead as planned on the West Front. Why is it so important to you to stick with the planned service and take the oath outside?

I believe that we can't yield to people who would try and make us afraid of who we are. We are, for all our faults and imperfections, we're a nation that was founded on very important principles and guided by exceptionally important ideals. And we cannot abandon that. We are a work in progress, but we can't abandon the appreciation that we need to have for the traditions that are emblematic of our commitment to our democracy, which comprises a peaceful transfer of energy, which includes everything we do to deliver in one government after another in a way that's about upholding basic standards, and particularly, those standards as outlined in the Constitution.

Shifting gears to this proposition that the president-elect laid out, this really is a massive bill. It's just short of $2 trillion. Ticking through some of the details -- $20 billion for vaccinations, $50 billion for expanded testing, $130 billion for universities to reopen safely. If this is passed and signed into law, how quickly can Americans expect to determine existence to come back to normal?

Let me be quite clear that the president-elect and I understand that this isn't going to be simple, but we're putting everything we have got to this, and to take care of it whenever possible, which explains why we're prepared right now to, on day one, push and get this bundle, so that it strikes the floor and hits the roads and we receive relief to the American people.

That is why we have the payment. It's gonna supplement the 600 that arrived in December with a different $1,400 for $2,000 [total]. That's why we are enlarging SNAP benefits -- we had to call it food stamps. It is about getting help to hungry people and hungry families. And that's the reason why we are saying that we are going to get community vaccination websites, since we need to encourage local authorities and local leaders, mayors and governors, in terms of what they have to do in order to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.

We can't tell you it's going to be over on a certain date. But I could tell you that, on January 20th, we are hitting the ground running.

How fast can this get passed? Democrats have the narrowest of narrow majorities in both chambers.

Well, let me tell you, it's our highest priority. It is our greatest priority.

And the reality of it is this pandemic, we all know, does not see political lines. It does not... care about that you voted for at the previous election. In that way, it's an equal opportunity offender. In red states and blue states around the nation, we are seeing profound damage in terms of the loss of life, the loss of earnings, the loss of only, normalcy.

And we intend to work across party lines to do what's essential to get this passed. ... The suggestion that we are making is very reasonable. It is about doing things such as saying,"Hey, we all need and want our kids to return to school." Those kids could care less who their parents voted . We're saying,"Let us get assistance to neighborhood leaders and local governments to get these vaccinations moving," because why? Vaccines once administered at the arm of the people who want it, it is going to conserve life. And we expect and we hope and we will work in the kind of compromise and collaboration that's necessary to do this pushed through, since it is just the right thing to do.

It's your top priority. But there will be this much else going on, for example a Senate impeachment trial. So you have not just this invoice, you have to confirm the Cabinet through the Senate. How does that affect everything you are attempting to perform past legislation and confirmations? Only the easy actuality that much of the Biden-Harris campaign was about turning the page on Trump and today he's likely to be on trial to the first month of your administration.

There's a reason that word exists in the English language. That is what is likely to be required. We must multitask, so, as with anyone, we've got a lot of priorities and we must see them through.

I feel a lot of people have a lot of questions about the vaccines at the moment. This proposal has billions of dollars to fund vaccine supply, but it is not just funding. There are distribution problems, information sharing issues. There are trust complications, provide problems. What can the federal government do immediately in the coming weeks to begin to correct these?

Well, part of it's pass our strategy because we're, for example, placing $50 billion into increased tracing and testing, as you mentioned previously. And so that's a significant part of what we're doing and like using the Defense Production Act, knowing that that's one of the wonderful tools in the toolbelt of a president in times of crisis, a national catastrophe. And so these are the things that we can do immediately. And I will tell you, the president-elect [and] I have spent a lot of time on the telephone and speak with mayors and governors to be sure we get -- and bipartisan, by the way, Republicans and Democrats, mayors and governors, to be sure that we get them aid as quickly as possible so it gets to the people of their cities and states.

And exactly what are you specifically going to be focusing on in all of this? Obviously, when Biden was president, he chose on this very first stimulus package. Are you really going to be a point person in getting it passed or in any of these areas once it starts going to effect, if he can sign it into law?

Allow me to tell you something, on every decision that we have made as an incoming administration, we're in the room together, Joe and I, the president-elect and I. And on every, you know, I can't even tell you the number of meetings we have been in together ranging from this to other topics which are priorities for us. And so each one the priorities will be a priority for me and for your president-elect, of course. And we're full partners in this process.

There is a good deal of incredibly serious things happening right now. There is a pandemic.

What are you going to be thinking about next week once you choose the oath of office and you take the oath of office in an incredibly strange Capitol ceremony at which the National Mall will be ringed by thousands and thousands of soldiers.

There will be a great deal of ideas going through my head at that moment.

I'll be thinking about my mom, who's looking down from heaven. I will be thinking about each the people that are relying on us to lead and are counting on us to see them and also to handle their needs and the things that keep them up during the night. And I will be considering the fact that we must hit the ground running immediately to support the people of our country, to encourage the kids of our country, and to help get us out of the crises that we are facing, but also to, you know, let us get on and proceed and do the things which will allow us to grow and innovate and flourish.

Updated Date: 15 January 2021, 05:45

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