White House Combats Reports of Animosity Between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded to reports of rising tensions between Joe Biden and second-in-command Kamala Harris late on Sunday, calling Harris a "vital partner" to the president.

Psaki's remarks come amid reports of a deepening rift between the two top government officials.

"For anyone who needs to hear it. @VP is not only a vital partner to @POTUS but a bold leader who has taken on key, important challenges facing the country—from voting rights to addressing root causes of migration to expanding broadband," Psaki tweeted.

CNN reported on Sunday — citing nearly three dozen former and current Harris aides, administration officials, Democratic donors and other operatives — that the vice president has told confidants that she feels constrained about what she can do in her role, as Biden wrestles with legislative and political concerns.

The broadcaster reported that many in Harris's circle feel that she is being sidelined and not adequately prepared, considering there is a strong chance she could be running for president only a year from now. Biden will be 82 years old in 2024, when the next presidential election takes place and although he has said he intends to run, many observers believe Harris, who is 57, will be on the Democratic ticket instead.

"They're [White House staff] consistently sending her out there on losing issues in the wrong situations for her skill set," a former high-level Harris aide, who remained anonymous, told CNN. The people who spoke in the article said that the vice president's supporters have "no coherent public sense" of her plan and policies.

At the same time, Biden's staff are said to be privately frustrated with Harris over controversies they view as self-inflicted, including her "awkward" laughter when asked about visiting the southern border of the United States in June.

Harris regularly makes trips to the southern border to meet officials and address immigration issues there. But NGOs and other organisations that work on the southern border have been said to frequently complain about the vice president's office not following through with its promises.

Fernando García, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights, met with Harris during her visit to El Paso, Texas, this summer. He told CNN he was optimistic about her potential influence on immigration policy, but months later, the NGO worker said she had "disappeared."

"We haven't heard any substantive messaging push for better immigration policies," Garcia said. "We haven't seen her leadership."

The Paris Peace Forum, the event taking place in the French capital last week, where world leaders gathered to discuss global issues such as climate change, migration and human rights, was expected to be the platform on which Harris would launch her profile internationally.

However, the vice president had little chance to connect with the French public and didn't garner popular media interest, despite being the first female U.S. vice president and first person of color in that position in the White House, Politico reported on November 11. By the third day of the event, on November 11, Harris hadn't done any local media interviews to boost her international profile.

Seemingly in response to the Politico report, Harris's chief spokesperson, Symone Sanders, tweeted on Sunday: "It is unfortunate that after a productive trip to France in which we reaffirmed our relationship with America's oldest ally and demonstrated U.S. leadership on the world space, and following the passage of a historic, bipartisan infrastructure bill that will create jobs and strengthen our communities, some in the media are focused on gossip – not on the results that the President and Vice President have delivered."

Newsweek has contacted Harris's team for further comment on her relations with Biden.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks alongside Vice President Kamala Harris during a press conference in the State Dining Room at the White House on November 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday called Harris a “vital partner” to the president. Samuel Corum/Getty