Biden's VP Pick Opposes Boosting Defense Spending, But Supports Helping Vets and Families

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled "CBP Oversight: Examining the Evolving Challenges Facing the Agency," Thursday, June 25, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Alexander Drago/Pool via AP)

Sen. Kamala Harris, named Tuesday by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as his running mate, has staked out positions against increases in defense spending. But she has supported boosting the Department of Veterans Affairs' budget, her record shows.

The California Democrat has also called for increases in foreign aid, closer partnerships with allies on security issues, and an end to the military's transgender ban.

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In the Senate, and in her losing bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, the 55-year-old has argued for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, cuts to border wall funding, and an overhaul of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force law to give Congress more say on war-zone deployments.

Harris has mostly taken positions in line with the overall policy of the Democratic Party.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, her focus was more on law enforcement, civil rights, judicial nominations and the big picture implications of great power competition.

Her positions on national security, the Defense Department and the VA have been stated in more general terms, and she is certain to be pressed for details in a campaign that promises to be a test of her ability to stand up to criticism.

During her campaign for the presidential nomination, her rivals often accused her of failing to explain her policy proposals and sloughing off demands for details.

In the opening salvo against her Tuesday, President Donald Trump called her "nasty" and a "phony."

"She wants to raise taxes, slash funds to our military" and join with Biden in efforts to "appease socialist dictators," he added.

In August 2019, Harris responded in writing to a series of questions from the Council on Foreign Relations on national security issues.

She said she favored having the U.S. rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear programs.

"President Trump's unilateral withdrawal from an agreement that was verifiably preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon -- against the warnings of our closest allies, and without any plan for what comes next -- was beyond reckless," she said.

On China, Harris said the U.S. should work together on issues including climate change, "but we won't allow human rights abuses to go unchecked. China's abysmal human rights record must feature prominently in our policy toward the country."

When asked whether the U.S. should give sanctions relief to North Korea in exchange for partial dismantling of its nuclear weapons, Harris said there was no way to accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

"But it's clear that simply demanding complete denuclearization is a recipe for failure; we must work closely with our allies to contain and reverse the short-term threats posed by Pyongyang as we work toward that long-term goal," she added.

On veterans issues, Harris has said in campaign promotions that she would push for more access to VA health care and housing assistance for veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.

"The bottom line is that, if we are to get serious about addressing the veterans' homelessness and suicide crises, getting at-risk veterans the health care and housing services they need is critical. This isn't just a matter of what's right, it's a matter of public health," she said.

In general terms, Harris has stated that the nation needs to do more to support military families.

In her campaign material, she wrote, "When a member of our armed forces deploys, it impacts entire families, not just one individual. We need to do more to prepare entire families for the challenges they may encounter when their loved one returns."

She called for a "review of all existing pre-deployment and post-deployment training for service members" in an effort to "look for opportunities to provide more support to family members, including related to PTSD and [Traumatic Brain Injury]."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

Related: Biden Selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as Running Mate

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