Kamala Harris says ‘representation matters’ amid criticism over cabinet picks

EXCLUSIVE: The vice president-elect tells theGrio that she had personal input in President-elect Joe Biden's selections for the new administration

Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris Delivers Remarks In Washington DC
(Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said representation is important as the Biden-Harris administration is set to be the most diverse in history.

“Because representation matters and in a democracy, the elected leaders should reflect the experiences and the lives and the perspective of all the people,” Harris exclusively told theGrio.

Read More: Kamala Harris urges public to ‘celebrate with us virtually’ at inauguration

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is under pressure to fill the Senate seat left vacant by the election of Sen. Kamala Harris (above) as vice president with another Black woman. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“And it’s very important for the president-elect and me that we have a group of leaders in our cabinet who reflect the experiences and have ability then to speak to the people based on their ability to see the people and also in our vision of the future of our country, make sure everyone sees themselves.”

President-elect Joe Biden nominated Michael S. Regan, a North Carolina environmental chief to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and would become the first Black man in this post. Brenda Mallory has also been selected to serve as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality and she’d be the first African American as leadership as well.

Rep. Deb Haaland would also potentially be the first Native American to serve as secretary of the Department of the Interior.

Joe Biden Kamala harris thegrio.com
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

These many firsts are choices that Harris’ input was relied upon.

“I absolutely worked with the president-elect. I have been a full partner in this process and everything else about the transition and I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do at this point,” she said.

Read More: CBC applauds Biden-Harris noms as a step toward environmental justice

Harris responded to the spectrum of criticism that followed the announcements of the nominees and if there was room for a “middle ground.” Some such as the NAACP have argued that it was not enough while other critics faulted the incoming Biden administration for “identity politics.”

“Well, first of all, the middle ground, part of that point is let’s not accept false choices and it’s a false choice to suggest that you do one at the expense of the other. You can have both and that’s what we have in this cabinet,” Harris said.

“We have a diversity of experience and we have a deep bench of experiences all in one. And I think that maybe people aren’t used to thinking that way and hopefully when they look at the cabinet, it’ll help them along to understand that these things are not in conflict.”

Harris will be in Georgia on Monday to campaign on behalf of Senate Democratic candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. The Jan. 5 Georgia runoff will be critical to determine if Republicans hold onto their majority.

Read More: Jon Ossoff calls out racist attacks by Republicans ahead of Georgia runoff

(Photo: Getty Images)

If Warnock and Osssoff were to win, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) would become the majority leader of the upper chamber.

“It will mean everything. It will mean our ability to push through legislation that is about giving relief through the crisis, bringing better relief to small businesses, to helping people get through the crisis in a way that they don’t have to worry about getting evicted,” she said.

“It will have the ability to pass legislation that is about the Voting Rights Act and in the name of our now cherished ancestor and American hero John Lewis, it will mean everything.”

Harris expressed disappointment that a second COVID-19 stimulus package still has not been agreed on by leaders in Washington. The vice president-elect cited Americans who are suffering because they don’t know when their next paycheck will come from, fear of eviction, standing in food lines for hours, and worrying for the well-being of their children.

“When we win Georgia, it is still going to be a very strong and deep commitment to working across party lines, to work with Republicans to find common ground, and that’s very important to understand that if we are going to strengthen America,” Harris said.

TheGrio’s Stephanie Guerilus contributed to this report.

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