Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Senator, California

Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris, 55, as his running mate in August 2020, making her the first Black woman chosen for a presidential ticket by a major party. Harris has served as a U.S. senator from California since 2017, sitting on the Senate Judiciary, Intelligence, Homeland Security, and Budget Committees. She made a run for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination before dropping out in December 2019. As San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011 and California’s attorney general from 2011 to 2017, she focused on criminal justice reform and described herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” A native of Oakland, California, she graduated from Howard University and earned her law degree from the University of California, Hastings.

During her presidential campaign, Harris emphasized her opposition to President Donald J. Trump’s withdrawal from international treaties and agreements and promised to “revitalize” U.S. alliances around the world. She called for increasing pressure on China over its human rights record, and she cosponsored legislation to improve election security, especially criticizing Russia’s interference in U.S. politics. She rejected Trump’s tariffs on China, but opposed trade deals she says didn’t go far enough on labor and environmental standards, including the North American Free Trade Agreement—renegotiated and now called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement—and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which Trump withdrew.

In addition, Harris voted against increasing defense spending, promised to limit U.S. military engagements abroad, and called white supremacist violence the top domestic terrorism threat. On climate change, she rolled out a plan to direct $10 trillion in public and private spending toward a Green New Deal to transition to a clean economy and address environmental injustices.


Harris says the United States needs to confront China’s “unfair trade practices,” but she disagrees with President Donald J. Trump’s trade war with Beijing. She says she would stand up to China on its human rights abuses while also seeking cooperation on global challenges.

  • In an August 2018 letter [PDF], Harris and fellow California Senator Dianne Feinstein agreed with the Trump administration’s inquiry into China’s “unfair industrial policies and outright theft of American intellectual property,” but they criticized Trump’s proposed tariffs on consumer electronics from China, arguing that they would hurt U.S. consumers and companies. 
  • She told CFR that she would cooperate with China on global issues, including climate change, but her administration would also press Beijing on its “abysmal” human rights abuses. 
  • Harris, like many other 2020 candidates, cosponsored the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, which calls on several U.S. agencies to investigate China’s crackdown on the predominantly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group. 
  • She introduced a bill [PDF] in December 2018 that would expand the government’s ability to charge foreign actors who steal intellectual property and trade secrets from U.S. companies. She announced the bill during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Chinese economic espionage.

Climate and Energy

Harris calls climate change an “existential threat” and supports the Green New Deal framework backed by many Democrats. She proposes building a “clean economy” that creates jobs and pledges to fight environmental injustice and expand climate cooperation with other nations.

  • Harris’s climate plan calls for net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, and a carbon-neutral electricity sector by 2030. To do this, she proposes some $10 trillion in public and private investments over a decade in infrastructure, clean energy, and climate resilience measures, which she says will create millions of new jobs.
  • She promises to end federal subsidies for fossil fuels, increase enforcement of antipollution laws, and implement a climate pollution fee, or carbon tax. She has previously said she would ban fracking.
  • She says workers in fossil fuel industries will be guaranteed pensions, health care, and job retraining to assist in their transition to new sectors.
  • She pledges to restore environmental and public health protections rolled back under Trump, such as his effort to relax fuel-economy standards. She says all new vehicles will be zero-emission by 2035.
  • She told CFR she would immediately return the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate, from which Trump withdrew, and work to strengthen its emissions-reduction goals.
  • She also promises to put climate at the center of her international diplomacy, by assisting developing countries to acquire clean technologies, addressing climate in global trade agreements, and ratifying a range of international environmental agreements.
  • She highlights the need for environmental justice, or guaranteeing that all people have equal access to healthy environments. In July 2019, she announced the Climate Equity Act, which would evaluate the impacts of climate change legislation on low-income communities.
  • As California’s attorney general, she investigated Exxon Mobil to determine whether it lied about the risks of climate change. As a senator, she filed a brief supporting two cities’ lawsuits against oil companies. She opposes the Trump administration’s plan [PDF] to reopen some California public lands to drilling.


Harris says that white-supremacist violence is the top domestic terrorism threat in the United States today, pointing to recent mass shootings at mosques, synagogues, and churches. She has criticized President Trump for failing to act, saying he has “inflamed” the threat. 

  • Her plan to combat domestic terrorism includes empowering federal courts to temporarily seize guns of suspected terrorists, taking executive action to implement universal background checks if Congress doesn’t pass legislation within one hundred days, and instructing the National Counterterrorism Center to include domestic terrorism in its mission. 
  • She plans to prioritize domestic terrorism investigations by reestablishing a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit that focuses on domestic terrorism and creating new working groups within the DHS, Department of Justice, and FBI. 
  • She voted against Trump’s nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel, saying that Haspel’s refusal to answer questions about the morality of the CIA’s interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration, which Harris has called torture, was disqualifying. 
  • Asked if she would prohibit the CIA from conducting drone strikes, she said only that the United States must be transparent in the use of military force and that she would take an “active role in the decision-making around uses of military force.” 
  • She voted against reauthorizing part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because it did not require warrants for the government to access U.S. citizens’ information.

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Harris points to her extensive experience in cybersecurity. As attorney general and senator, she advocated for boosting election security, cracking down on cybercrimes by foreign actors, and enhancing cybersecurity at U.S. ports. 

  • Harris claims her campaign has been a target of online misinformation efforts, including by “Russian bots.” She believes that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and she cosponsored the Secure Elections Act to bolster election infrastructure and cybersecurity.
  • She proposed legislation in December 2018 that would enhance the ability of U.S. companies to sue foreign actors, including China, for cybercrime and hacking. 
  • Another bill she introduced in 2017 would have boosted cybersecurity at U.S. ports. 
  • As California attorney general, she established a new cybercrime center to upgrade the state’s ability to “prevent, investigate, and prosecute” cybercrimes. She also issued guidelines to businesses on being transparent with consumers about how their data is used.
  • She says tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google should be better regulated to protect user privacy, but hasn’t explicitly said those companies should be broken up.
  • She believes Americans have an “absolute right to the privacy of their data.” She criticized the alleged selling of customer location data by T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, and called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate. 


Harris supports reducing U.S. defense spending to focus on domestic priorities and says she wants to end wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East. 

  • Harris is in favor of cutting defense spending and in 2018 was one of ten senators to vote against the $716 billion defense budget authorization.
  • She told CFR that she would end the war in Afghanistan by seeking a political solution that would allow U.S. troops to return home “responsibly” in her first term. 
  • She maintains, however, that the United States will need to keep some sort of presence there to support Afghanistan’s government and fight terrorism.
  • She also wants to end the “protracted military engagement” in Syria. In a 2017 statement following a U.S. strike on Syria, she said the Trump administration “lack[ed] clear objectives” and that it should work with Congress to develop a strategy.
  • Her veterans plan would increase federal funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), expand the VA’s housing and health-care services, improve medical coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues, and update the GI Bill to provide service members a wider range of educational options.
  • She would reverse the “illegal and immoral ban” on transgender service members.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Harris says alliances are the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. She pledges as president to strengthen diplomatic relationships that she says have been damaged by Trump. She argues this has made the United States weaker and less safe. 

  • Harris told CFR that the United States’ greatest foreign policy accomplishment has been the creation of a global network of institutions and alliances, and that Trump is now jeopardizing it.
  • She promises to work more closely with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and “key partners” like India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea. 
  • She promises to “reinvigorate” the State Department and the U.S. diplomatic corps.

Economic Policy

Like other Democratic candidates, Harris has positioned herself as a champion for working people and economic justice. She plans to give tax credits to middle-class families, empower unions, and penalize companies that take advantage of their employees. 

  • In 2018, Harris proposed the LIFT the Middle Class Act, which would give middle-class families a tax credit of up to $6,000 per year. To pay for it, she plans to reverse the 2017 tax reform legislation, which she says disproportionately benefits big companies and wealthy Americans.
  • She also wants to pass her Rent Relief Act to give tax credits to people spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent. 
  • As president, she says she will fight for equal pay for women and promote policies to empower communities of color.
  • Arguing that transportation is a “human rights issue,” she believes that U.S. infrastructure is in critical need of upgrades, which would create jobs. 
  • She says she would aggressively address financial crime, pointing to her record as attorney general, where she negotiated with banks to secure better terms for mortgage relief for foreclosed homeowners. She also created a task force on predatory lending and mortgage fraud.


Harris has been an outspoken advocate for immigration reform as district attorney, attorney general, and senator. She calls Trump’s border policy “disastrous” and “cruel,” and her reform plans include expanding asylum programs and providing a path to citizenship for the estimated eleven million undocumented residents.

  • Harris says Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform but says she will use executive action to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provided legal status to the more than two million Dreamers, undocumented residents brought to the country as minors. 
  • She would also protect parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents from deportation and remove barriers for Dreamers applying for green cards. 
  • She says that crossing the border illegally should be a civil offense, not a crime.
  • She believes that anyone who arrives to the United States should have the chance to apply for asylum. She opposes Trump’s travel ban, which prevents nationals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
  • She has opposed funding for Trump’s proposed border wall expansion. She was one of three Senate Democrats to reject a deal in February 2018 that granted $25 billion to build the wall in exchange for giving Dreamers a path to citizenship.
  • She says that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must be “critically re-examined” but not abolished, as advocated by some other presidential candidates. 
  • In July 2019, she reintroduced the Detention Oversight, Not Expansion (DONE) Act [PDF], which would freeze the expansion of ICE detention facilities and prohibit the construction of new ones. 
  • She also reintroduced the Access to Counsel Act [PDF], which would ensure that people held or detained while entering the United States have access to legal counsel. She originally introduced the bill—her first as a senator—in 2017. 
  • During her time as attorney general, thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America entered California. She issued guidelines to law enforcement that they could not hold immigrants indefinitely and crafted legislation to give millions of dollars to legal services for child migrants. 
  • She supported a 2008 San Francisco policy that reported arrested undocumented juveniles to ICE, which she now calls a mistake.

Middle East

Harris believes that U.S. strategy in the Middle East must focus on counterterrorism and include an immigration policy that allows refugees from the region to come to the United States. She is also a strong supporter of Israel.

  • Harris supports the “right of Israel to defend itself” but advocates for a two-state solution in which Palestinians and Israelis govern themselves. She told CFR that the United States should facilitate negotiations between Israel and Palestine but that Trump has degraded Washington’s ability to be an honest broker.
  • She opposes the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
  • She calls Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement “beyond reckless.” She says she would rejoin it so long as Iran returns to compliance, and pledges to work on expanding it to include restrictions on ballistic-missile testing. 
  • She says she would end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s “catastrophic” war in Yemen and criticizes Trump for turning a blind eye to Saudi’s “heinous assassination” of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 
  • She supported a 2018 resolution calling on the president to end all military actions in Yemen and also voted to block weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. However, she says Washington should continue to work with the Saudis on counterterrorism.
  • She visited Iraq and Jordan during her first overseas trip as a senator in 2017 and met with service members and refugees. She says she will work to “end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and protracted military engagements in places like Syria.”
  • She has condemned Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from northern Syria, which she says sells out the Kurds, boosts the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and strengthens Iran and Russia in the region. 

North Korea

Harris has criticized the Trump administration’s approach to Kim Jong-un, saying it is not in the United States’ interests to “embrace this North Korean dictator.” She is open to diplomacy but emphasizes that it must include Japan and South Korea. 

  • She told CFR that she would consider some sanctions relief to improve life for North Koreans in exchange for Pyongyang taking “verifiable steps” to denuclearize. 
  • Describing Trump’s meetings with Kim as a “photo-op,” Harris believes the president must take the North Korean regime’s human rights violations more seriously. 
  • She criticizes Trump for ending some joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, which she says undermines U.S. alliances and influence in Asia. 
  • She signed a letter to Trump stating that he lacked “legal authority” to carry out a preemptive strike on North Korea. 
  • In addition to including Japan and South Korea in U.S. diplomatic efforts, she has said she would focus on working with China.


On Russia, Harris has primarily focused on Moscow’s interference in U.S. elections. She says she would “stand up” to President Vladimir Putin to defend democratic values, and emphasizes her support for Ukraine.

  • Harris described Russia’s interference in the 2016 election as an “attack” on the United States that took advantage of racial fissures, and she says that Russia is also targeting the 2020 election. 
  • She cosponsored the Secure Elections Act to bolster election infrastructure and cybersecurity.
  • She also supports the PAVE Act, which would require the use of hand-marked paper ballots [PDF], instead of voting machines, during elections. 
  • She has raised violence against the LGBTQ+ community in Russia as a concern.
  • She told CFR that Russia’s occupation of Crimea is a “severe violation of international norms.” As president, she says she would support Ukraine’s sovereignty and work with the government to boost its military and civil society. 
  • In 2018, Harris signed a letter to President Trump [PDF] that urged the administration to continue nuclear arms control negotiations with Russia. The letter criticized his plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and called for the extension of the New START treaty.


Harris has criticized free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying they do not adequately protect U.S. workers or address climate change. She has also criticized Trump’s tariffs. 

  • Harris told CFR that she would oppose any trade deals that don’t include high labor and environmental standards. She says that includes the Barack Obama administration’s Asia-Pacific trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Trump rejected and which she opposed during her 2016 Senate run.
  • She claims she would not have voted for NAFTA, saying that it did not do enough to protect American workers.
  • She says China engages in unfair trade practices and economic espionage, but she opposes Trump’s trade war with Beijing, arguing that tariffs are “crushing American farmers, killing American jobs, and punishing American consumers.”
  • She supported a nonbinding Senate resolution in 2018 calling for Congress to have a bigger voice in White House decisions to impose tariffs for national security reasons. It came after Trump imposed broad steel and aluminum tariffs.

Venezuela and Latin America

Harris calls Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro a “repressive and corrupt dictator” and has urged the Trump administration to provide special legal relief to Venezuelans amid the country’s humanitarian crisis. She doesn’t support military action to change the regime there.

  • Harris told CFR that Venezuelans should be immediately granted temporary protected status (TPS), which would allow Venezuelan migrants already in the United States to legally stay and work for a set period of time.
  • She also wants to provide more funding to international humanitarian organizations that deliver aid to Venezuelan citizens and refugees. 
  • She does not support U.S. military intervention, saying that Venezuelans deserve a “free and fair election and a peaceful transition of power.” She has not commented on U.S. sanctions on Venezuela.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.