Kamala Harris Misses California Disaster Aid Vote to Campaign With Labor Unions

Sen. Kamala Harris / Getty Images
April 4, 2019

Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) on Monday missed a critical vote to secure disaster aid for California to help rebuild after the destruction from wildfires.

Harris, who is running for president, skipped votes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to make multiple campaign stops in California and Nevada. On Monday, the Senate failed to advance a disaster aid package that included billions of dollars for the California wildfire recovery. The bill needed 60 votes to advance, but it was several votes short of reaching the threshold. The natural disaster aid package proposed more than $12 billion in relief for wildfires and other disasters from 2017 and 2018, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Harris attended a conference hosted by the California Labor Federation and the State Building and Construction Trades Council in Sacramento, Calif., on Monday evening. She also had an impromptu meeting with California child-care workers, who were at the conference to garner support for collective bargaining rights in Sacramento.

A day later, Harris made multiple stops in Nevada, missing a vote on a Republican maneuver to expedite confirmation of President Donald Trump's judicial and executive branch nominees. She also missed more votes on Wednesday where Senate Republicans used the so-called nuclear option for their plan to speed up the confirmation process of Trump's nominees, according to Politico.

The missed votes highlight the challenge she and five of her Democratic Senate colleagues face as they struggle to balance their day jobs with the increasing demands of a presidential campaign. Complicating their decisions of when to campaign is the ascent of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, whose unemployment gives him the freedom to crisscross the country while cable news shows cut in live to his midday events. Former Vice President Joe Biden, should he run, also would not be tethered to the Capitol.

Senate Republicans are already keeping tabs on the missed votes of 2020 Democrats. Some of the candidates fear Republicans will lard the calendar with votes at inopportune times to force their hands.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has missed just one vote since her announcement. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has missed two, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) missed two on the day of her announcement and one vote since then. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) has missed four votes, one of which was a procedural vote on the confirmation of Attorney General William Barr.

"If you're going to run, I think you have to be single-minded about it. I don't think you can kind of be half-minded about it," said Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.), Hillary Clinton's vice presidential nominee in 2016. "But it is really, really hard to do and balance with being in the Senate. I don't envy the juggling and the staff work."

Harris voiced her opposition to the disaster aid bill last week, saying that natural disasters have affected millions of Americans beyond her state and that there were still people struggling in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. She also took a shot at the Trump administration, saying they have "played politics."

"I've seen the damage up close in California, and I promised that I would do everything I can to help get them back on their feet," Harris said. "But this administration has played politics with disaster funding by failing to fully assist California wildfire victims and the millions of American citizens still struggling in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Survivors of these disasters are hurting, and they deserve immediate and meaningful support—this bill does not do that."