Former Vice President Joe Biden’s decision to pick Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate may shed light on the Democratic ticket’s defense policy priorities, with the senator previously indicating some support for reducing Pentagon spending levels and voting against the Senate’s fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill.
While Harris does not serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the junior senator has previously spoken against provisions allowing DoD’s reprogramming of funds for the border wall and voiced concerns over potential new nuclear testing.
Last month, the Senate considered an amendment from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to its FY ‘21 NDAA that would cut DoD’s budget by 10 percent and redirect the funds toward community programs. The measure was ultimately voted down 23 to 77 (Defense Daily, July 23).
Harris, who has never served in the military, was among the ‘no’ votes, but did release a statement indicating support for looking at reducing the defense budget.
“I applaud Senator Sanders and am grateful for all the work that he’s done on this amendment. I unequivocally agree with the goal of reducing the defense budget and redirecting funding to communities in need, but it must be done strategically. I remain supportive of the effort, and am hopeful that with the benefit of additional time, future efforts will more specifically address these complicated issues and earn my enthusiastic support,” Harris said in a statement.
Harris, however, did vote against final passage of the Senate’s FY ‘21 NDAA noting her opposition to several Republican majority-backed measures in the bill.
“I am thankful for all the work negotiators did to this point, however, I voted no because Californians demand better. I could not vote for a bill that provides backdoor funding for Trump’s border wall, clears a pathway to testing a nuclear weapon for the first time in decades, and does not adequately address the scourge of sexual assault in the military. And I could not back this bill after Republicans refused to include our amendments to demilitarize police departments,” Harris said in a statement.
Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, said the firm sees Harris “as a minor sentiment negative” on defense.
“We continue to believe that under a Biden Administration, absent a significant change in security threat assessments, DoD spending could be flat, compared to FY21 levels. For defense and foreign policy, it will be more important to see what Biden articulates in the coming weeks and which people emerge for DoD, OMB, State, and NSC if Biden wins the election,” Capital Alpha Partners wrote in a note following Harris’ selection as VP.