The following is a transcript of an interview with Vice President Kamala Harris that aired on “Face the Nation” on Sept. 10, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you’re 58 now. If you win a second term, as you and the president are running to do, he would be 86 at the end of it. And we are seeing Republican candidates hone in on you, in particular, as being next up for that job. Nikki Haley says…
NIKKI HALEY: A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for a President Kamala Harris.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Chris Christie…
CHRIS CHRISTIE: I want to be clear that I pray every night for Joe Biden’s good health, not only because he’s our president, but because of who our vice president is.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Ron DeSantis…
RON DESANTIS: Harris is his impeachment insurance….people know if she were president – Katie bar the door. As bad as Biden did, it would get worse.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you respond to all of that?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We’re delivering for the American people. And the reality of it is that, unfortunately, very few of those who challenge our administration actually have a plan for America. You look at what we have accomplished, Margaret. We have created over 800,000 new manufacturing jobs in America, 13 million new jobs, unemployment at record lows. We have capped the cost of insulin for seniors at $35 a month. Capped the cost of prescription drugs on an annual basis at $2,000.
MARGARET BRENNAN: They’re talking about–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — For seniors–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — What you would do as president as being a risk. They’re honing in on you. Why do you think that is? How do you respond to those attacks? That’s not about policy, that’s about you.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Listen, this is not new. There’s nothing new about that. I mean, listen, I am– in my career, I was a career prosecutor. I was the first woman elected district attorney of San Francisco, a major city in this country and reelected. I was the first woman attorney general of the second largest Department of Justice in the United States and reelected. I was a United States senator. I represented one in eight Americans, and I’m now vice president of the United States. They feel the need to attack because they’re scared that we will win based on the merit of the work that Joe Biden and I, and our administration, has done.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But even Democrats are worried about the president’s age. The Wall Street Journal had a poll showing two thirds of Democrats say Joe Biden is too old to run again. Are you prepared to be commander-in-chief?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yes I am, if necessary. But Joe Biden is going to be fine. And let me tell you something: I work with Joe Biden every day. Under Joe Biden’s leadership, we have transformed and are in the process of transforming America’s infrastructure with an historic investment in, not only roads and bridges, but high speed internet, what we are doing around issues like lead pipes, and I could go on and on.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you taking the threat of a second Trump presidency seriously enough?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I don’t understand the question.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You were dismissive of some of the Republican criticism of you and the president. When you look at current polling, the front-runner for the Republican nomination is the former president, the 45th president.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We will win reelection-
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you feel–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We will win, we will win reelection. There is too much at stake and the American people know it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of delivering on promises, you in your portfolio have tackled the issue of the root cause of migration. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol saw a record number of migrant families cross the border in the month of August, this despite that record level of heat. Why is that happening now? You’ve rolled out new policies.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Around the globe, we are seeing an increase in irregular migration. And there are a number of factors at play: an increase in authoritarian regimes, what we’re seeing in terms of extreme weather occurrences, what we’re seeing in terms of, in many places around the globe, increasing food insecurity. So there are many reasons for why this is happening and- and America is- is not immune to that. The point has to be then to understand what we must do to deal with, one, ensuring that we have a secure, humane and orderly policy about the border, but also what we must do in the long term to address the root causes of migration. The work that I’ve been doing in that regard has been to build public-private partnerships to the extent that we have now raised over $4 billion to invest in the countries in that region.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But that migration data according to CBP is showing migrants from Guatemala are up. Honduras, Ecuador, Peru. So, when the border crossings went down earlier in the summer, the administration said it was due to your policies working. Now, they’re going back up as they did in the month of August. Does that show the strategy is no longer working?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Absolutely not. What it means is that we have to stay focused on a number of issues related to the irregular migration that again, we’re seeing around the world and America is not immune. You know my philos-
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you think the strategy is working despite the numbers being up?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Overall, we are seeing progress, but there is- we’re not going to have a constant, there are going to be fluctuations. That is normal, just like the weather fluctuates and- and circumstances fluctuate, such as elections in those regions and what that might mean. It doesn’t mean that we keep our foot off the gas, we have to stay focused and understand there has to be a long-term strategy, as well as a short-term strategy. And here’s the- the bottom–
MARGARET BRENNAN: So was it too early to say that the strategy was working when the numbers went down for two months?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: My point is that focusing on root causes, and doing the work that we have been doing to bring U.S. investment into those countries, in a way that is supportive of their economies and supportive of fighting corruption, actually works.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You have been very active on the issue of abortion and rallying behind the idea of this federal law to restore what was upheld in Roe v. Wade. But to do that, Democrats need 60 votes in the Senate, they need a majority in the House they don’t have, they need the presidency. The math doesn’t add up. So don’t you need to level with the American people and say this is not a realistic promise to make for 2024?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Congress has the ability to put back in place the rights that the Supreme Court took from the women of America.
MARGARET BRENNAN: In theory. It doesn’t have the votes to do that.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: But that’s why we have elections. And that’s why we are seeing, around this country, that when this issue is on the ballot, from Kansas to California, people vote in favor of upholding basic freedoms. The vast majority of Americans agree that the government should not be making this decision for the women of America.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What is it that you believe? I mean, what week of pregnancy should abortion access be cut off?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We need to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which was–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We’re not trying to do something new–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that was nebulous, because it was about viability, which could be anywhere between 20 to 24 weeks–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — No, no, no, no, no. Let me be very clear–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — That’s, that was in the Women’s Health Protection Act that the White House also endorsed–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — Let me be- let me be very clear. From day one, the president has been clear, I have been clear. We need to put back the protections that are in Roe v. Wade into law. Since the Supreme Court took it, Congress has the power and ability to pass legislation to put those protections back in law and Joe Biden will sign that bill. So, that is what we want.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But does it need to be specific in terms of defining where that guarantee goes up to and where it does not, at which week of pregnancy?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We need to put back in place the protections of Roe v. Wade–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — You know why I’m asking you this question though, because —
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We’re not trying to- we’re not trying to do anything that did not exist before June of last year. We are saying–
MARGARET BRENNAN:– It wasn’t crafted into law. And that’s why I’m asking you for the specifics there, because Republicans say the lack of a precise date in cutting it off – you know this – they say that allows Democrats to perform abortions up until, you know, birth.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Which is ridiculous–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is statistically not accurate–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:– And it’s ridiculous.
MARGARET BRENNAN: — I understand that–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — And it’s a mischaracterization of the point. No, the point is–
MARGARET BRENNAN: But- but do you need to be more precise?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I am being precise. We need to put into law the protections of Roe v. Wade. And that is about going back to where we were before the Dobbs decision.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But if- if there is the possibility through legislation to provide any kind of guarantee at the federal level, any kind of protection like the Republican proposal, 15 weeks protection–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS:– The Republicans are also–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — Is it worth doing something?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — Members of the Republican Party are also proposing a national ban. The thing that–
MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m talking about the Lindsey Graham bill, as you know, and- and those proposals of giving some access, though that’s 15 weeks. Why do you think it shouldn’t be specific? You know, out in- out in New Mexico, for example, the governor there says it shouldn’t be nailed down to a week because it should be a private matter between a woman and her doctor. There shouldn’t be a precise number put on that. Is that what you believe as well?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I believe that we should put the protections of Roe v. Wade into law, and the way that will happen is if we have a United States Congress, who regardless of their personal view for themselves or their family, would agree that the women of America should be trusted to make decisions about their life and their body based on what they know to be in their best interest. It’s that simple.
MARGARET BRENNAN: China’s rewriting the global order. Your national security strategy says they are the only power in the world with the intent and the ability to do that.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: There’s no question that we are very concerned about the Chinese government’s actions on the South China Sea and how that is impacting the security and the future prosperity of the nations that are affected. For example, I was recently in the Philippines and I’ve been spending a lot of time with President Marcos. The- what is happening in terms of unprovoked actions against the Philippine interests in the South China Sea is significant and we have been very clear that we stand with the Philippines.
MARGARET BRENNAN: They’re a treaty ally.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — They are absolutely- yes they are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The U.S. would have to militarily defend them —
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Not only is there a treaty relationship, but the very basic issue that the American people will experience and feel if we’re not- if we’re not on top of it is what that will mean in terms of commerce flowing freely through those waters.
MARGARET BRENNAN: How concerned are the leaders you spoke with here about the potential for a military clash?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I think the issue that is most present here among the Southeast Asian leaders is that there be a respect for and enforcement of international rules and norms. But they hope that there will be an avoidance of conflict. And that- there’s a great symmetry between that and our policy toward China. We do not invite conflict, but we absolutely are prepared to and engaged in what is necessary to compete.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So when President Biden said the other day that China was a ticking time bomb, he was talking about their current economic problems that they are experiencing. He said, “That’s not good, because when bad folks have problems, they do bad things.” What is the scenario that you are thinking about and worried about the most?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: We, as the United States, in our policy, it is not about decoupling, it is about de-risking. It is about understanding.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It’s not about pulling out.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: It’s not about pulling out, but it is about ensuring that we are protecting American interests, and that we are a leader in terms of the rules of the road, as opposed to following others’ rules.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But President Biden was, I think, he was talking about the economic problems within China right now. He seemed to be suggesting that Xi Jinping might take some kind of action.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: It’s no secret that China is experiencing economic problems. And- and what you will find is – certainly in my conversations with American business leaders – is that they are looking at the future in terms of their capital investments and taking into account which countries are engaged in practices that are about abiding by the rule of law and international rules and norms in a way that they can be guaranteed that there will be some stability so they can make long-term investments. There is increasingly an understanding that China may not be the best bet when you are looking for stability, when you are looking for an investment in- in a place where there is an adherence to and respect for international rules and norms.
MARGARET BRENNAN: This November, the United States will host a big summit of leaders in San Francisco. China said a few days ago – their state security service – the U.S. needs to show sufficient sincerity before Xi Jinping agrees to visit. How important is it for Xi Jinping to come to America in November?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Well, it is important to the order of things, if you will, the stability of things that we keep open lines of communication.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You were in the same room with China’s number two, today–
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yes. I have- and I’ve actually met with President Xi as well–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — Did you talk to him? Did you talk to him today?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Well, we exchanged pleasantries. Yes, yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But it’s still a little tense?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I don’t think it’s as simple if you will, as whether there’s tension. Yes, there’s tension when you are in a competition of any sort. But that does not mean that we are seeking conflict.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: And I think it’s important to not conflate the two. Do we have disagreements, for example, very serious disagreements about what’s happening in the South China Sea? Yes and we’re very clear about that. So one could argue that there’s tension there, but you look for example, at trade, 99 percent of our trade is not influenced by what we are doing in terms of the restrictions on exports.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So you want Xi Jinping to come in November?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I think he is absolutely an important player in this region of the world. And if he comes, then that will be, I’m sure, something that could be productive.
MARGARET BRENNAN: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as you know, is expected, according to U.S. intelligence, to go meet with Vladimir Putin in Russia in exchange for some military support potentially here. How destabilizing would that be for Asia?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I think it would be a huge mistake. I think it would be a huge mistake. First of all, when you look at Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, and the idea that they would supply ammunition to Russia, well, it’s predictable where that ends up. I also believe very strongly that for both Russia and North Korea, this will further isolate them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of the most sanctioned countries in the world at this point.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: But at some point, it’s just a step too far.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What is that step too far? I mean, what is it that Kim Jong Un is seeking? Is it nuclear submarines, as our allies in Seoul have said they’re concerned about? Is it satellites? What does that do here in Asia?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Our allies are telling you- us, about their concern about what’s happening in terms of North Korea. We are all absolutely clear and unequivocal about our goal of the complete denuclearization of North Korea. But when we think about the- Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, we’re- many- most are very clear also. It’s an absolute violation of one of the most important agreements that we have around the world in terms of international rules and norms, which is the importance of sovereignty and territorial integrity. And, Margaret, on that matter, I- it is very clear that Russia has clearly- they’re very desperate, they have already experienced a strategic failure. So clearly, this is an act of desperation on the part of Russia, but it would be a huge mistake for Korea to do this – for North Korea to do this.