Kamala D. Harris made history as the first woman, Black woman and Asian American woman to become vice president. She was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the nation’s highest court.
We’ve compiled some of our most deeply reported stories on Biden and Harris, their history in public office, and where they stand on the issues.
Joe Biden’s long career in public service spans two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama and 36 years as a U.S. senator representing Delaware. Biden was a public defender before he entered politics.
Biden and family
Vice President Joe Biden greets President Barack Obama during a campaign stop in Dayton, Ohio, in 2012. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)
The poignant but complicated friendship of Joe Biden and Barack Obama. We’ve all seen the images: President Barack Obama and the vice president crying, laughing, hugging, whispering, backslapping, eating ice cream together and strolling contemplatively on the White House grounds. Over their eight years together in office, Obama and Biden taught us a lesson in male bonding, often startling us by professing their fondness for each other. Just days before their departure from the White House, the normally reserved Obama drew on William Butler Yeats to extol Biden: “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, / and say my glory was I had such friends.”
July 2019 | By Steven Levingston
Jill Biden is finally ready to be first lady. This year, perhaps more than ever, America feels broken and in need of gluing back together. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, families across the country are facing all kinds of losses. Jill Biden’s empathy could give shape to her potential role as first lady beyond issue advocacy. In June, Jill flew with her husband to Texas to sit down with George Floyd’s family before his Houston memorial service.
August 2020 | By Jada Yuan and Annie Linskey
The politics of grief. Perhaps more than any political figure since Robert F. Kennedy, who ran for president less than five years after his brother’s assassination, personal grief is at the center of Biden’s public identity. It has bookended his career; his wife and infant daughter died in a car crash shortly before he entered the Senate in 1972, and his son Beau, a rising political star in his own right, died at age 46 of cancer in 2015.
October 2019 | By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
Joe Biden will lead an American gerontocracy. Biden’s experiences are those of the baby boomers: reared by the white, middle-class prosperity of the 1940s and ’50s, challenged in the ’60s by seismic social movements and wars hot and cold, accumulating power and wealth in the ’70s and ’80s as the country careened from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan, from “Mary Tyler Moore” to “Dallas.” Biden will be governing with his cohort: Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the top Republican in the Senate, is exactly nine months older than Biden, and Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the Democratic speaker of the House, is 23 months older than McConnell. The trio has been in federal office for a combined 114 years.
January 2021 | By Dan Zak
The two sides of Joe Biden. Biden, unlike some of his predecessors, is also a politician of striking empathy. To the frustration of his handlers through the years, he regularly blew out his schedule by hanging back at rope lines to clasp the shoulders of parents who’d lost children, or kept donors waiting while he spent time with a kid who stuttered, just as he once did. The 46th president of the United States, the oldest ever elected, has a decades-long history of determination and drive, and at least in later years, of a humility not so commonly associated with his profession.
January 2021 | By Marc Fisher
As vice president, Biden said Ukraine should increase gas production. Then his son got a job with a Ukrainian gas company. As Biden announced his candidacy in April that he was seeking the presidency, his son Hunter quietly left his position in Ukraine with the largest private gas company after serving for five years. From the moment Hunter Biden took the job in 2014, Republicans have said it presented a conflict of interest for the Bidens. Joe Biden, then the vice president, was the point person on Ukraine policy in the Obama administration. Biden offered U.S. aid to Ukraine to increase gas production, which could benefit the Ukrainian energy industry.
July 2019 | By Michael Kranish and David L. Stern
Joe Biden seems to have roots all over. In York, Pa., he speaks of his father living at the local YMCA. In front of Toledo autoworkers, he calls himself the “son of an automobile man.” In Media, Pa., he is the “grandson of Ambrose Finnegan,” a Scranton ad man turned gas company worker. But he is also the great-grandson, on his mother’s side, of Edward F. Blewitt, a member of the Pennsylvania state Senate. On his paternal side, he is connected to Maryland through a great-great-grandfather who sold produce and a grandfather whose transition from Baltimore kerosene salesman to Wilmington oil executive earned the family a temporary taste of wealth. His family was rich in Boston, comfortable in Long Island and broke in Scranton. One relative died in World War II, and another, “Old Man Sheen,” ran shipyards in Virginia.
March 2012 | By Jason Horowitz
Joe Biden’s Catholicism is all about healing. Pitching himself as president, Biden promised to heal America’s hurting soul. Catholicism has always been how Biden has understood healing, others and himself. Now, Biden will lead a nation deeply in need of healing — with soaring coronavirus cases, thousands dying daily and millions out of work and hunkered down in isolation.
January 2021 | By Michelle Boorstein
Biden on the issues
What Joe Biden says he will do on day one as president
December 2020 and January 2021 | By Washington Post Staff
The war in Afghanistan shattered Joe Biden’s faith in American military power. Vice President Joe Biden decided to make one more last-minute push to convince President Barack Obama that the advice his generals were giving him was disastrously wrong. It was Thanksgiving weekend 2009, and Obama was on the verge of committing 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan. Biden wrote a memo that summarized the arguments he had been airing for months to the growing irritation of the military’s top brass. The Pentagon’s strategy was too broad, too expensive and too focused on the Taliban insurgency, instead of al-Qaeda.
February 2020 | By Greg Jaffe
Biden foreign policy begins with telling the world: “America’s back.” One of the first things he would do as president, Biden has said, is “get on the phone with the heads of state and say, ‘America’s back, you can count on us.’ ” To prove his point, Biden plans a few quick hits, reversing some of the centerpieces of President Trump’s foreign policy, just as Trump quickly moved to overturn much of the Obama agenda in January 2017. Biden has pledged to immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, the World Health Organization and other U.N. bodies. He plans to return to the Iran nuclear deal, if Tehran also returns to compliance.
October 2020 | By Karen DeYoung
Joe Biden embraces aggressive climate plan steps. Biden has proposed upgrading 4 million buildings and weatherizing 2 million homes over four years, which his campaign estimates would create 1 million jobs. Homeowners would be given cash rebates to upgrade home appliances and install more efficient windows. Car owners would receive rebates to swap their old, less-efficient cars for newer ones that release fewer pollutants.
July 2020 | By Matt Viser and Dino Grandoni
Joe Biden has created a plan to combat the pandemic. Biden has created a war-Cabinet-in-waiting on the coronavirus pandemic, with major figures from the Obama, Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations drafting plans for distributing vaccines and personal protective gear, dramatically ramping up testing, reopening schools and addressing health-care disparities.
September 2020 | By Yasmeen Abutaleb and Laurie McGinley
President Barack Obama awarded Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a ceremony in 2017. (Susan Walsh/AP)
For Joe Biden, life and destiny converge to offer a new challenge: After building one of the deepest résumés in American political history, with 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president to Barack Obama, Joe Biden will be sworn in again on Jan. 20. This time, the ceremony will take place in Washington. This time, it comes amid not a personal tragedy but a national one. This time, it will be for the office he sought two times before, and only won this time after a roller coaster campaign against two dozen Democrats and a Republican incumbent who fought for months to deny Biden the title he always wanted: president.
January 2021 | By Matt Viser
This is Joe Biden’s biggest moment. Why does he feel so small? Joe Biden the idea lives in our minds. He’s a statesman, a senator, a vice president who helped start wars, confirm Supreme Court justices and expand health care to millions of Americans. He’s larger than life, a big effing deal. Joe Biden the man, on the other hand, takes up considerably less space. In April, Biden clinched the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. It is unquestionably the biggest thing to happen in his decades-long career as a public servant, and yet, shrunken down to the size of an iPhone screen or panel in a Zoom chat, the candidate has never seemed quite so small.
April 2020 | By Ben Terris
Joe Biden has been imagining this moment for more than 50 years. Nearly every four years since 1980, Biden considered a presidential run — and yet it never seemed like his time. He ran in 1988 in his mid-40s as a champion for a new generation, then dropped out in humiliating fashion over allegations that he plagiarized a speech. He tried again in 2008 as an experienced insider, only to watch in frustration as all the attention focused on the party’s two biggest celebrities: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. As the outgoing vice president in 2016, Biden pondered a run but bowed out as establishment support coalesced around Clinton. Now, in 2020, Biden finally stands on the brink of realizing the ultimate achievement he predicted 56 years earlier.
August 2020 | By Matt Viser
Obama awards Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Obama described Biden as a “lion of American history” and praised his long service in the Senate. As vice president, Biden’s influence has spanned both domestic and international policy initiatives. He was a critical voice in crafting strategy in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and in encouraging Obama to send Navy SEALs on a mission to capture or kill Osama bin Laden in 2011. Biden also helped oversee the president’s first-term economic stimulus package and pressed unsuccessfully for gun-control legislation after the killing of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
January 2017 | By Greg Jaffe
Joe Biden was in charge of the Anita Hill hearing. Praised by supporters as a champion for women and survivors of sexual assault, the former vice president faced doubts about his White House bid because of his age, past performance as a candidate and a physical style that has made some women uncomfortable. Critics also have blamed Biden for not apologizing to Hill personally for conducting a hearing they say was not fair to her.
April 2019 | By Elise Viebeck
With Biden, wanting it and winning it are the same thing. Sheer force of will has kept him churning all these years. His athletic successes, his legislative failures, the good years, the bad luck — through it all runs the thread of Biden’s single-minded drive to beat the odds, to conquer and control. It’s a distinct advantage, his staff will tell you, sounding like members of a well-rehearsed choir. Joe can move people: He strikes a chord as Mr. Positive, radiating optimism, who goes after what he wants. But as he formally announces his candidacy, there’s a nagging uneasiness among some political professionals, a sense that Joe Biden believes he can simply will himself into the presidency.
June 1987 | By Lois Romano
Biden named Sen. Kamala D. Harris as his running mate on Aug. 11, making her the first woman of color on a major-party presidential ticket. Harris, a former prosecutor, was the attorney general in California before representing California in the Senate.
Harris and family
Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speaks with sister and adviser Maya Lakshmi Harris, right, in March 2019 while campaigning for president. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Kamala D. Harris makes history. What will she do with it? Harris, 56, has yet to offer any grand vision of what kind of vice president she hopes to be, although few vice presidents have by Inauguration Day. On the surface, what Harris symbolizes to an increasingly diverse party has been obvious: She is a woman of color who tugged at a historic desire for representation, brought a lengthy résumé from the nation’s most populous Democratic state, and has held her own against the Trump administration. To her supporters, she is a symbol for equity and empowerment for a party that has long sought both.
January 2021 | By Chelsea Janes
“I am who I am”: Kamala Harris, daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, defines herself simply as “American.” Harris’s background in many ways embodies the culturally fluid, racially blended society that is second-nature in California’s Bay Area and is increasingly common across the United States. She calls herself simply “an American” and said she has been fully comfortable with her identity from an early age. She credits that largely to a Hindu immigrant single mom who adopted Black culture and immersed her daughters in it. Harris grew up embracing her Indian culture, but living a proudly African American life.
The Jamaican connection. Kamala Harris’s father is a proud islander who made sure his daughters know their heritage. Her father introduced her to Marley and Jimmy Cliff. She picked up some patois, the distinct Jamaican dialect that blends English with African languages. But he also tried to shape an understanding of the culture that went beyond food and music. The elder Harris taught her about the vast gulf between the wealthy and the poor in Jamaica, and the challenges to economic growth — blending his experience with his expertise.
January 2021 | By Robert Samuels
Who is Kamala Harris, really? Ask her sister Maya. The two are not only extremely close; during Kamala’s year-long presidential run, Maya served as her campaign chairwoman. It is a job she for which she was uniquely qualified: She had been a senior adviser for Hillary Clinton in 2016, knows her sister better than anyone else and, professionally, is something of a yin to Kamala’s yang.
January 2021 | By Ben Terris and Chelsea Janes
Doug Emhoff paused his career for wife Kamala Harris’s aspirations. Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris’s husband, is making history as America’s first male vice-presidential spouse. Making history has come with professional sacrifices for Emhoff, who until recently was a high-powered Los Angeles attorney. He will teach at Georgetown Law School in Washington when his wife takes office.
January 2021 | By Manuel Roig-Franzia
For Kamala Harris, being first means attention and attacks. But if Harris’s background has provided exponentially more ways for her to resonate with Americans, it also has multiplied the amount of criticism she receives. Harris has waved off talk of any future campaigns, including laughing off the prospect of facing President Trump again in 2024. However, the acclaim, criticisms and attacks she faced in the primary and general elections shine a light on how Harris could become a central focus during the Biden presidency.
January 2021 | By Amy B Wang
Harris on the issues
Sen. Kamala D. Harris is introduced as Joe Biden's running mate on Aug. 12. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Harris’s prosecutorial skills have the power to energize Democrats. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) had two big moments when she questioned Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh at his volatile confirmation hearing two years ago. Harris was again at the center of an explosive nomination battle — this time in an unprecedented role as a member of a presidential ticket participating in a divisive Supreme Court hearing for Amy Coney Barrett just three weeks before Election Day.
October 2020 | By Chelsea Janes
What you need to know about Kamala Harris. Harris is the first woman of color on a major-party presidential ticket and only the fourth woman on a major-party ticket. Harris has represented California in the U.S. Senate since 2017, when she became the second Black woman and the first South Asian American to join the upper chamber. Before that, the Oakland native had been California’s attorney general since 2011.
August 2020 | By Eugene Scott
Harris and Biden once were at odds on criminal justice issues. The path that the senator from California and the former vice president took to finding common ground on criminal justice reform was a key factor in bringing them together on the Democratic presidential ticket at a moment when such reform is considered an urgent task amid the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
August 2020 | By Michael Kranish
Pence and Harris clash under the shadow of a surging pandemic. Harris went after Trump’s efforts to stem the coronavirus, his attempts to upend President Barack Obama’s health-care program, his trade policies and his reluctance to condemn white supremacists at the first presidential debate. She called Trump’s handling of the pandemic “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”
October 2020 | By David Weigel, Michael Scherer and Chelsea Janes
Harris’s history in office
Who is Kamala Harris? A look back at the vice president-elect's rise
In her first race, Kamala Harris learned how to become a political brawler. When Harris first ran for public office in 2003, she took on the incumbent district attorney for whom she had worked. Now, as Harris is set to debate Vice President Pence as the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee, the lessons she learned from her first campaign reveal the birth of a political brawler. It is an approach she has honed ever since, and it has come to define her blunt-force, prosecutor-like manner of taking on an opponent.
Kamala Harris could be quietly on the brink of a historic leap. Her potential to become the first woman so close to the presidency has gotten less attention than previous female candidacies — in part because of the crises gripping the nation, in part because of other firsts that Harris embodies as a Black and Asian American woman, and in part because of her relatively low-profile way of grappling with gender.