Did Kamala Harris backpedal a bit on the issue of school busing?

In the first Democratic debates, the California senator blasted the former vice president on his school busing record, but now she seems to have walked back some of her statement

Photo Credit by Associated Press

Sen. Kamala Harris appears to have slightly dialed back a comment made at the Democratic presidential debate regarding school busing.

On Wednesday, Harris said she thinks busing should be a decision made by local school districts attempting to desegregate their locations. At the debate, she seemed to support federal intervention to force districts to utilize busing, and sharply criticized former Vice President Joe Biden for his record on the issue.

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When reporters asked Harris point blank whether she favors federally mandated busing, after a Democratic Party picnic Wednesday in West Des Moines, Iowa, she responded: “I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America’s schools,” according to the Associated Press.

During the debate last week, Harris zinged Biden for opposing federally mandated school busing when he was a senator in the 1970s. Harris told the audience that she was bused in the 1970s as an elementary school student growing up in Berkeley, California, and that busing provided her a great education.

“That’s where the federal government must step in,” Harris said passionately, while eyeing a surprised Biden. The crowd burst in applause.

But on Wednesday, she stated that busing should be an option for local school districts to make.

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When reporters asked her whether she agrees with federally mandated busing, Harris replied, “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.”

Biden’s campaign took no time bashing Harris’ comment.

Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, tweeted that Harris isn’t being consistent.

“It’s disappointing that Senator Harris chose to distort Vice President Biden’s position on busing — particularly now that she is tying herself in knots trying not to answer the very question she posed to him!” Bedingfield said.

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For his part, Biden insists that he is not against busing, but thinks it should be a decision made by the districts and not forced on them.

During an appearance at a conference last week in Chicago, Biden told the audience he “never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing.”

In the 1970s and 80s, Biden was an outspoken critic of federally mandated busing. Back then, he even sponsored a congressional measure that would have imposed funding limits for federal busing.