Kamala Harris has been sworn in as vice-president, becoming the first woman in American history – as well as the first woman of African American and south Asian descent – to hold the post.
The former California senator was sworn in by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina on the supreme court. Harris has chosen to be sworn in using two Bibles, one from the late Thurgood Marshall the first Black supreme court justice, and one from Regina Shelton, a close family friend who was something like a surrogate mother for Harris and her sister growing up.
Harris’s inauguration marks a major moment in American history. Women have run on presidential tickets as would-be vice-presidents but until Joe Biden’s win, none of those tickets were victorious.
Harris’s elevation fulfills a major a goal of Biden’s presidential arc: to install people of color and women in powerful positions in his administration, oftentimes where historically only white men have been.
Even as she became president, Harris’s portfolio remains murky. Biden and Harris have both described their ideal relationship as similar to that between Biden and Barack Obama when the latter was president. Biden was to be the last voice in the room on any major decision.
But that dynamic will not be perfectly replicated. Biden spent decades in the Senate while Harris was in her first term when she first ran unsuccessfully for president and then was selected as Biden’s running mate. Unlike recent vice-presidents, though, Harris is expected to often play a deciding role in the Senate because of the 50-50 split.
Harris will reside at the Naval Observatory, the traditional home of the sitting vice-president. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, will join her there and become the first man married to a vice-president. He will be referred to as the second gentleman.
Harris, a lawyer by trade, is the former attorney general from California. She attended Howard University in Washington DC for her undergraduate degree and often references her time there when talking about her history.
Harris becomes vice-president with a relatively new team in her office. Her chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, was not a member of her campaign staff. Harris’s chief spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, also a woman of color, served as a top adviser to Biden throughout his successful presidential campaign. Sanders began traveling with Harris near the end of the campaign and stayed on with Harris through the transition.