Current and former aides to both Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris say that while dealing with the Senate will be important to her job, she has not been assigned a specific issue portfolio, at least at the outset, and will instead serve as a governing partner to Mr. Biden on all of his top priorities. If fulfilled, that mandate could make her among the most influential vice presidents in history.
In one sign of how much she may be involved in legislative campaigns, Ms. Harris has been in touch with mayors around the country to preview Mr. Biden’s coronavirus relief package, the Harris aide said.
From the moment Ms. Harris was chosen as Mr. Biden’s running mate, Republicans sought to paint her as a radical who would co-opt the more centrist Mr. Biden’s agenda and push any administration far to the left, often relying on sexist personal attacks in the process. Yet while Ms. Harris and Mr. Biden had sharp disagreements on a number of issues during the primary, as his running mate she made a point at every turn to demonstrate that she not only embraced his agenda, but had studied his proposals in detail and was fully on board as his partner.
On Wednesday, she reveled in the moment as she appeared outside the Capitol for her inauguration. “So proud of you,” former President Barack Obama told her as they fist bumped shortly before her swearing-in. Minutes later, Ms. Harris, clad in a purple coat, barely suppressed a smile as she finished taking her oath from Justice Sotomayor, her hand on a bible once belonging to Thurgood Marshall, the former Supreme Court justice.
After the inaugural ceremony, Ms. Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, escorted her predecessor, Mike Pence, and his wife, Karen Pence, down the Capitol steps for Mr. Pence’s departure. The couples stopped midway for a friendly chat punctuated by laughter.
In her next role, though, Ms. Harris may face inherent challenges, including finding her place in a West Wing stocked with veterans of the Obama White House who have known and worked with one another for years and advising a president with deeply fixed ideas of how Washington operates. And given speculation that the 78-year-old Mr. Biden may not seek a second term in office, Ms. Harris, who mounted her own unsuccessful 2020 White House bid, is sure to face scrutiny about her electoral future much earlier than did her predecessors.
One factor that may work in Ms. Harris’s favor is Mr. Biden’s own experience as vice president, especially at the beginning when he joined an Obama White House team that at times had a clubby quality. Ms. Harris’s allies hope and expect that Mr. Biden — and many of the aides who worked with him, like the incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain — will remember what it was like to be “on the other side” and ensure that Ms. Harris and her team are included and empowered.