Vice President Kamala Harris is carving out an important role in the new administration by hosting calls with foreign leaders on behalf of President Joe Biden, something former Vice President Pence did only a handful of times during his four years in office.
What are the details?
On Monday, the White House published a readout from Harris’ solo call with French President Emmanuel Macron. During the call, Harris “expressed her commitment to strengthening bilateral ties between the United States and France and to revitalizing the transatlantic alliance.”
The two leaders also “agreed on the need for close bilateral and multilateral cooperation to address COVID-19, climate change, and support democracy at home and around the world” and “discussed numerous regional challenges, including those in the Middle East and Africa, and the need to confront them together,” according to the readout.
The vice president reportedly thanked Macron for “his leadership on the issue of gender equality and for France’s contribution to NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover.”
It is the second call with a leader of a foreign country that Harris has hosted since she and President Biden were sworn in on Jan. 20. Earlier this month, she spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and last month she spoke with World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In her call with Trudeau, Harris vowed to remain in “close touch” and set a pattern of bilateral cooperation.
Why does it matter?
The New York Post reported that Pence “seldom spoke with world leaders toward the end of his term” but noted that he occasionally did so in earlier years and sometimes met with foreign leaders while on trips around the world.
Though it was not commonplace for Pence, it is not especially unusual for a vice president to exercise influence on foreign policy and engage in diplomacy. Certainly, former Vice President Dick Cheney did that during the George W. Bush administration.
However, the news may resonate differently this time since many have expressed concerns over Biden’s ability to carry out the duties of the presidency given his age and mental acuity. Biden was the oldest president ever to be elected at 78 years of age and routinely experienced gaffes on the campaign trail.
In December, Biden quipped that if he and Harris ever came to a “fundamental disagreement,” he’d “develop some disease and say [he has] to resign.” The joke may have hit too close to home.