Vice President Kamala Harris’ portfolio runneth over.
In just her first three months in office, Ms. Harris has amassed responsibility for controlling the porous southern border, directing U.S. competitiveness in outer space, extending broadband service back on Earth, selling the president’s multitrillion-dollar jobs bills, unionizing the U.S. workforce, coordinating relations with world leaders, advocating for the rights of women and girls, serving as a watchdog on social equity issues and preventing the planet from overheating.
That list probably omitted a few of the vice president’s ever-expanding duties. It’s early.
Republicans say it’s another sign that Ms. Harris and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party are calling the shots in the White House. Some outside observers say it’s doubtful that a vice president can effectively manage so many policy priorities effectively.
“I don’t think she can really handle that many responsibilities at one time, but I think there is a symbolic value in doing that,” said Sangay Mishra, an assistant political science professor at Drew University in New Jersey and an advisory board member of the Kamala Harris Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group of scholars examining her term in office.
Mr. Mishra said the administration wants Ms. Harris, the first female vice president and the first vice president of South Asian and Black heritage, to be in the forefront of many policy priorities for political impact.
“I do feel that the administration has come to rely on her, both for her expertise and her ability to deal with issues, but also for political reasons in the sense that the symbolism of her being there, and what she represents, and the constituents that she speaks to, is part of what is happening,” he said. “That’s the reason why you see so many assignments being given to her.”
Ms. Harris’ responsibility for the migrant crisis has drawn the most fire from Republicans. She has focused on diplomatic efforts with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador while rebuffing calls to visit the border region to see the impact firsthand.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, North Carolina Republican, mocked Ms. Harris’ assertion that a lack of “climate resilience” in Central American countries is partly responsible for the surge of illegal crossings of the U.S. border. “It probably has more to do with your radical open border policies, Kamala — nice try trying to shift the blame though,” Mr. Cawthorn tweeted. The conservative lawmaker introduced a “Donument” bill last month that would protect the southern border wall built by President Trump by creating a national monument to the barrier.
Mr. Biden told Congress that he delegated responsibility to Ms. Harris for the migration problem because “I have absolute confidence she will get the job done.”
In a virtual meeting with Ms. Harris on migration Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador praised President Biden’s decision to delegate responsibility to his vice president.
“It is my hope that this will be a permanent and constant relationship between us,” Mr. Lopez Obrador told Ms. Harris through a translator. “I believe that this was a very positive, a very good decision, and we thank President Biden for naming you to lead all things related to migration. This is a topic, as I understand, that is very important to President Biden, as you have been appointed, as vice president, to lead all efforts regarding these issues.”
The administration announced recently that Ms. Harris will head the National Space Council, a traditional role for the vice president. The council oversees national security, technological development and commercial growth in space.
Senior administration officials said Ms. Harris will focus on “sustainable development” of space commerce, climate change, peaceful borders and responsible behaviors in space, plus STEM education and diversity in the workforce.
Asked how Ms. Harris’ work would differ from that of predecessor Mike Pence at the National Space Council, a Biden official said, “I think her approach to this is just going to be to get the job done, and use this to lead our space policy, and not really focus perhaps as much on big displays.”
A former senior Trump administration official who worked on space and border issues said the Biden team is mischaracterizing Mr. Pence’s contributions.
“Pence went down to two shuttle launches. If that’s a display, I think that that shows support, it conveys that space is a priority,” the former official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He went over to NASA for a Space Council meeting and celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Space Force. Those were important priorities for that administration. If somebody is being critical of ‘big displays,’ I’m not sure that they understand how to show that things are a priority to the American people. And by that logic, Biden or Harris not doing a big visit to the border would convey that it’s not a priority for them.”
The former Trump official said the Biden White House “certainly attempted to make a big deal about Harris leading the Space Council.”
“But that’s a role that’s traditionally filled by the vice president, so it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that that’s a responsibility she was going to take on,” the source said. “Juggling multiple priorities is definitely doable if you have the energy and focus on accomplishing those. I think that the key difference when Pence was given responsibilities in the Trump administration, he dove in head first. Harris hasn’t been to the border at all.”
The vice president’s office didn’t respond to questions about how she plans to effectively manage the broad range of policy priorities or whether she intends to hire more staff to help her.
It’s clear that Ms. Harris has become a foil for Republicans, who are fundraising off her name and warning voters about her far-left influence.
Upon hearing that Ms. Harris will be leading the National Space Council, Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, tweeted, “Goodbye space programs.”
The Democratic-majority House Committee on Science, Space and Technology called Ms. Harris “an inspiration to young women across the nation” and said as chair of the Space Council, “she is a role model for the next generation of women” in science and math careers.
Mr. Mishra said Republicans are making what amounts to “a good political move” by saying Mr. Biden is delegating to Ms. Harris because he is not capable of handling all the responsibilities.
“Kamala Harris is associated with the more progressive left, the minority caucus, the abolish-the-police, that kind of crowd, which is now controlling the White House,” he said of the Republican view. “So it’s more of a political move than an actual reading of the situation.”