President Joe Biden has long faced speculation that he is only nominally in charge of his own administration, with various critics claiming that Vice President Kamala Harris is actually calling many of the shots behind the scenes.
Biden added fuel to such rumors this week by announcing that Harris had been placed in charge of dealing with the worsening crisis along the southern U.S. border, Breitbart reported. In remarks on Wednesday, the president confirmed that his vice president had his blessing and the full extent of his executive powers in undertaking the task.
“The most qualified person”
Of course, this is just one of several areas in which Harris appears to be either taking the lead or at least a more active role than her predecessors. She has also reported spoken directly with top world leaders, received presidential daily briefings, and forged an influential role on matters of foreign policy and national security.
Biden met with immigration officials at the White House this week, after which he revealed that he tasked Harris with taking charge of the “diplomatic effort” to stem the tide of immigration, focusing on the “root causes” behind what he called a renewed “surge” of migrants.
His administration has been reluctant to refer to the situation as a “crisis,” but his latest moves offer evidence that the president understands his soft touch on border-related matters has been insufficient. Nevertheless, he sidestepped responsibility and attempted to blame the problem on former President Donald Trump.
As for his vice president, Biden said that he chose her to take charge “because she’s the most qualified person to do it,” according to a White House transcript.
He later reiterated his confidence in Harris, declaring: “I can think of nobody who — who is better qualified to do this.”
“I gave you a tough job”
Biden noted that it is not “her full responsibility and job,” but stressed his belief that “the best thing to do is put someone who, when he or she speaks, they don’t have to wonder about is that where the president is.”
The president went on to give Harris the unilateral power to act on his behalf.
“When she speaks, she speaks for me,” Biden said, according to Breitbart. “Doesn’t have to check with me. She knows what she’s doing, and I hope we can move this along. But — so, madam vice president, thank you. I gave you a tough job, and you’re smiling, but there’s no one better capable of trying to organize this for us.”
For her part, Harris expressed confidence in her ability to hit the ground running in hopes of engaging with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to discuss ways in which those nations can reduce the number of migrants heading north to the U.S. border.
“I also look forward to working with members of the Congress who, I think, share our perspective on the need to address root causes for the migration that we’ve been seeing,” she said, according to the White House transcript. “And needless to say, the work will not be easy, but it is important work. It is work that we demand — and the people of our countries, I believe, need — to help stem the tide that we have seen.”