When the vote for a disaster relief package that would have given financial aid to California to rebuild after the ravenous wildfires last year came up in the Senate this week, 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was out campaigning instead, Politico reported Thursday.
Harris skipped out on a key vote in the Senate on Monday regarding a disaster relief package that would have given aid to her home state of California — which saw the United States’ deadliest wildfire in a century last year — to instead meet with labor unions in Sacramento.
She also missed major votes on Tuesday and Wednesday while campaigning in Nevada, including the Senate Republicans’ “nuclear” vote on Wednesday to change the Senate rules regarding debate time for certain judicial nominees.
In a statement, Harris accused the Trump administration of “play[ing] politics” and claimed that the package would not provide “immediate and meaningful support” to victims of the California wildfires and hurricanes in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands:
“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. 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.”
Missing votes could pose a problem for Harris and her fellow senators vying for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, as the demands that come from running a presidential campaign interfere with their jobs in the Senate.
Politico also added that the presences of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and former Vice President Joe Biden — the latter of whom has not officially declared his candidacy — make it harder for Harris and her Senate compatriots to balance their official duties and campaigning for president, as O’Rourke and Biden are not “tethered” to Washington.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election — told Politico that candidates “have to be single-minded” about running, adding that “it is really, really hard to do and balance with being in the Senate.”
Democratic strategist Jim Manely told the outlet that while missing votes from time to time may not be a huge issue, he “would have advised Sen. Harris to be in town for yesterday’s votes.”
The disaster relief package failed to pass in the Senate in a contentious 44-49 vote on Monday. It would have included over $13 billion in aid for those affected by storms and wildfires last year.