The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Pete Buttigieg: No Rivalry With Kamala Harris on 'Disciplined' Team

Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has denied there’s any rivalry between him and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Several recent articles in major national media have characterized Harris as adrift in President Joe Biden’s administration. “Harris is struggling with a rocky relationship with some parts of the White House, while long-time supporters feel abandoned and see no coherent public sense of what she’s done or been trying to do as vice president,” CNN reported this month. “Being the first woman, and first woman of color, in national elected office is historic but has also come with outsized scrutiny and no forgiveness for even small errors, as she’ll often point out.”

The administration has not leapt to her defense as it did with Buttigieg when right-wing commentators criticized him for taking paternity leave after becoming the father of twins, according to CNN. Buttigieg is also in a history-making position, being the first out Senate-confirmed presidential cabinet member as well as the first gay parent in the cabinet. Both ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and are potential presidential aspirants in future elections.

“It’s hard to miss the specific energy that the White House brings to defend a white man, knowing that Kamala Harris has spent almost a year taking a lot of the hits that the West Wing didn’t want to take themselves,” a former Harris aide told CNN.

Buttigieg appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday to discuss Biden’s Build Back Better legislation and a variety of other topics. “Every time something’s written about Vice President Kamala Harris’s political standing, your name seems to be in every one of those articles,” host Chuck Todd said to Buttigieg. “Has it at all impacted your relationship with the vice president, that it seems as if there’s this narrative of a rivalry developing between the two of you?”

“No, because she and I are part of a team that is disciplined and doesn’t focus on what’s obsessing the commentators,” Buttigieg replied. “We’re too busy with a job to do. She, as the leader in this administration, her leadership role, and I and the president and everybody else in the cabinet and across the administration are laser-focused on getting the job done. That would be demanding in any administration. But in one like this, where we have been assigned by the president to take on literally projects and legislation of generational significance, there’s no room to get caught up in the parlor games. And I’m proud to be part of the Biden-Harris team.”

On the defense of Buttigieg versus Harris, CNN reported, “White House aides say they weren't pitting one against the other. The difference in the responses, those aides think, was that Buttigieg hadn’t done anything wrong by taking time to be with his new children. Buttigieg’s leave was a conveniently timed reminder that Biden is pushing for a national paid leave law to be part of his social safety net package.”

The version of Build Back Better passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week includes four weeks of paid leave, but some of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate might not support this provision. Buttigieg told Todd the final version of the bill will be worthwhile even without this.

“Cutting child care costs in half, delivering free pre-kindergarten education for 3- and 4-year-olds, that is an absolutely historic achievement, even if there are more things that we would like to do and will continue to try to do,” the secretary said.

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