The prospect of a Kamala Harris presidency gives me pause

Joe Biden has chosen U.S. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to be his running mate. She should strengthen his candidacy. She is a black woman who is the daughter of immigrants, and California has more electoral votes than any other state.

But would she be a good president?

This is an important question because many people don’t expect Biden to finish a four-year term in office if he is elected.

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According to the latest Rasmussen Reports survey, 59 percent of likely voters believe it’s likely that Biden’s running mate will have to take over as the president before the end of Biden’s four-year term if he wins this fall. Only 35 percent consider it unlikely.

If Biden is elected, he will be 78 years old when he takes the oath of office. We have never had a president who was that old when he started his first term. It's fair to note that Trump — currently the oldest president ever elected — would be just shy of 75 on inauguration day 2021.

Ronald Reagan was only 69, and his age was an issue from the start of his presidential career.

There are a host of issues that come with aging — from difficulty dealing with stress to higher risk from COVID-19 to decreased mental acuity and dementia. I’m not predicting any of this for Biden: My point is simply that his age makes the possibility of him not finishing his full term more likely.

Two concerns about Harris being president

First, if we are going to put a Democratic senator in the White House, I would like it to be someone with good legislative skills who can work with the Republicans. You don’t have to look beyond the current deadlock over a coronavirus relief bill and the failure to pass bipartisan immigration reform legislation to know why this is important.

It’s a practical matter for governing well, regardless party affiliation — and arguably, the country needs good government as much or more than ever. 

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Harris hasn’t had much experience in Congress. She was sworn in on Jan. 3, 2017, which was only three and a half years ago, and her record does not demonstrate much aptitude for working with the opposition.

The GovTrack 2019 Report Card ranks Harris as being the most liberal of the Senate’s 100 senators, which must make it difficult for her to find common ground for negotiations with the Republicans and more moderate democrats. It concludes further that she joined bipartisan bills less frequently than other Democratic senators.

Harris’s political rigidity is illustrated by the fact that she was one of just three Democrats who voted against a compromise that would have given the Trump administration billions of dollars for a border wall in exchange for a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

The report card also finds that only two other senators missed more votes than Harris, which makes one wonder how interested she is in the legislative process.

This was not just a problem in 2019. From January 2017 to August 2020, Harris missed 271 of 1,184 roll call votes — 22.9 percent of them. The median is 1.7 percent missed roll call votes among the lifetime records of the rest of the senators.

And although the report card finds that Harris introduced more bills than all but one of the other senate sophomores, she got her bills out of committee less often than all but one other senate sophomore. The committees decide whether bills are going to be voted on by the full Senate.

Second, Harris’s immigration policies would encourage illegal immigration.

According to CATO, the majority of Harris’ time in the Senate has been focused on the treatment of undocumented aliens in the United States.

When asked on the second night of the 2019 Democratic debates if an undocumented alien should be deported if his only offense is not having documents, her response was, “I will say, no, absolutely not. They should not be deported.”

Biden’s answer to this question was that they shouldn’t be “the focus of deportation.”

If she were to become the president, Harris would likely use her executive powers to forge “a roadmap to citizenship.”

Her roadmap calls for expanding the DACA program by eliminating the requirement that applicants must apply before they are 31 years old. She also would make DACA available to aliens who were brought to the United States when they were 17 years of age or younger instead of when they were 15 years of age or younger, which is the current requirement.

DACA defers deportation and makes work permits available to the participants.

Her plan would include a deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and for other law-abiding immigrants who have community ties.

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In other words, she doesn’t just want to replace the removal grounds that congress wrote with her own enforcement priorities, as Biden would; she also wants to establish a deferred action program with work authorization that would be available to the undocumented aliens she doesn’t think should be deported.

This isn’t surprising for a California senator. California is a sanctuary state that protects undocumented aliens from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Its sanctuary policies have drawn more than 2 million undocumented aliens to California. More undocumented aliens live in California than in any other state.

Apparently, Harris would bring California’s sanctuary policies with her to the White House.

This would draw an unprecedented number of undocumented aliens to the United States from all over the world.

The Constitution problem

The way the Democrats have persuaded the public and the news media that America’s immigration laws should be disregarded — as opposed to rewritten — has become a problem in itself.

Jerry Kammer wrote a book entitled, “Losing Control,” in which he explains that the Democrats didn’t just abandon the laws written by our elected representatives in Congress, they joined other liberals in proclaiming that those who want the laws to be enforced are racists.

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I think this intolerant liberalism threatens public discourse generally, by making people afraid to say that the immigration laws should be enforced, and the core legislative function of debate, negotiation, and compromise specifically, because it is difficult to have meaningful discussions with someone who thinks you are a racist.

In the end, the Constitution’s fundamental principle of separation of powers gives Congress the power to write — and re-write — the laws… it does not envision the Executive simply ignoring those laws.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an executive branch immigration law expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him on Twitter @NolanR1 or at https://nolanrappaport.blogspot.com.