Harris says she’s ready to step into role of president if Biden is unwell: ‘May have to take over’
Vice President Kamala Harris said during an interview Wednesday that she was ready to fulfill her constitutional duty to assume the presidency should President Biden be unable to govern as questions swirl around his health and age.
Biden, who is 80 and is turning 81 in November, continues to be the oldest serving president in U.S. history. Should Democrats win again in 2024, he will be 82 before he is sworn into a potential second term and would be 86 at the end of it. Harris described the idea of possibly stepping into the role of president as ‘hypothetical’ but said she was ready.
‘Joe Biden is going to be fine, so that is not going to come to fruition,’ Harris told The Associated Press in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she was attending a regional summit. ‘But let us also understand that every vice president — every vice president — understands that when they take the oath they must be very clear about the responsibility they may have to take over the job of being president.’
She added, ‘I’m no different.’
The vice president also dismissed concerns about Biden’s age, even though he is widely seen as too old for office.
A recent AP/NORC poll showed that 77% of Americans and 69% of Democrats think Biden is too old for a second term.
Some Republican presidential candidates, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, have argued that a vote for Biden would really end up being a vote for Harris.
‘I see him every day,’ Harris said of Biden. ‘A substantial amount of time we spend together is in the Oval Office, where I see how his ability to understand issues and weave through complex issues in a way that no one else can to make smart and important decisions on behalf of the American people have played out.’
She added, ‘And so I will say to you that I think the American people ultimately want to know that their president delivers. And Joe Biden delivers.’
Harris ran for the presidency in 2020 but quickly burned out following the Democratic primary debates. She ultimately dropped from the election in Dec. 2019 and received fewer pledged delegates than fellow candidates Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar or Tulsi Gabbard.
During the interview, Harris also cited her former work as a prosecutor in arguing former President Trump should be held responsible for the protests at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Harris served as the San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011 and California’s attorney general from 2011 to 2017.
‘Let the evidence, the facts, take it where it may,’ Harris said during Wednesday’s interview.
She continued, ‘I spent the majority of my career as a prosecutor. I believe that people should be held accountable under the law. And when they break the law, there should be accountability.’
Trump, the current frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is facing four federal indictments, including one in Georgia for allegedly attempting to reverse the results of the 2020 election.
With the 2024 presidential election cycle fully underway and with Trump likely becoming the Republican nominee, Biden and Harris have expressed that he is a threat to American democracy.
‘Democracies are very fragile,’ Harris said in Wednesday’s interview. ‘They will only be as strong as our willingness to fight for it.’
Harris is currently representing the United States at a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The president’s absence disappointed some, but the White House emphasized his commitment to the region, which Harris also reiterated in her interview.
‘We as Americans, I believe, have a very significant interest, both in terms of our security but also our prosperity, today and in the future, in developing and strengthening these relationships,’ she said.
Harris’ approval ratings have remained low throughout her vice presidency, and an NBC News poll found she had the lowest rating for any vice president in the poll’s history.
Only 32% of registered voters have a positive view of Harris, compared to 49% with a negative view, and 39% with a ‘very negative view.’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.