WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris got into a testy exchange with media host Charlamagne Tha God Friday, defending President Joe Biden from questions over roadblocks to passage of his social spending package.
Harris sat for a taped interview with Charlamagne airing Friday night on Comedy Central’s “Tha God’s Honest Truth," where she touted the administration’s infrastructure package, work addressing maternal mortality issues and police reform. But Charlamagne repeatedly pressed Harris about the inaction on much of Biden’s agenda, pointing in particular to West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, whose opposition to the $2 trillion social spending bill is one of the primary obstacles to its passage.
Manchin, he said, is “hurting black people in particular” by holding up progress on key parts of the president’s agenda, and he warned that Black voter turnout could decline if the roadblocks continue.
Harris largely avoided the line of questioning, pointing instead to unified Republican opposition as part of the problem in Washington, and emphasizing that with an evenly divided upper chamber, “every vote matters, especially in the Senate, and we have to listen to the voices who represent their districts.”
As a Harris aide attempted to end the interview, Charlamagne asked, “I want to know who the real president of this country is — is it Joe Biden, or Joe Manchin?” He repeated the question, eliciting from the vice president a dismayed, “C’mon, Charlamagne. It’s Joe Biden.”
“No, no, no, no,” Harris asserted. “It’s Joe Biden, and don’t start talking like a Republican, about asking whether or not he’s president.”
She ticked off a handful of administration accomplishments, like the expansion of the child tax credit and lead pipe replacement in the infrastructure law, and continued, “I hear the frustration, but let’s not deny the impact that we’ve had and agree also that there is a whole lot more work to be done.”
It was a notably sharper tone from Harris’ typically muted and on-message public appearances, where she rarely diverts from talking points or prepared remarks. But Charlamagne noted that the tone was more reminiscent of Harris’ public profile during her time in the Senate, when she rose to national prominence with her sharp questioning during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.
“That Kamala Harris? That’s the one I like,” he said. “That’s the one I’d like to see out here more often in these streets.”
Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press