Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday traveled to North Carolina to promote the Biden administration’s $20 billion proposal to convert the country’s entire fleet of gasoline and diesel-powered school buses to electric vehicles, and to talk up the president’s plans to create “good jobs.”
The speech was expected to help position Ms. Harris as one of the main faces advocating the American Jobs Plan, which so far has been handled mostly by five cabinet secretaries tasked with selling President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Administration officials said she would travel the country in the coming weeks to continue promoting the plan.
Speaking at Guilford Technical Community College, Ms. Harris talked about how the administration’s infrastructure plans would create “good jobs,” a notable shift away from attempts by other officials to provide specific metrics about how many jobs the plan would create.
“I believe you shouldn’t have to work more than one job to pay your bills and feed your family,” she said. “One good job should be enough.”
Ms. Harris said only that the administration’s plan would create “millions of jobs” and noted that “a majority of the jobs we will create through the American jobs plan will require at most six months of training after high school.”
Ms. Harris’ focus on the quality of the jobs that would be created, rather than any specific number of jobs that would be added to the economy, reflected the administration’s new push as it tries to sell a plan that still has no Republican support in Congress.
Mr. Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, have both claimed, inaccurately, that the plan would add 19 million jobs to the U.S. economy. But the analysis by Moody’s Analytics that they were referring to included 16.3 million jobs that were projected to be added even if the proposal never comes to pass. Since then, the administration has shifted its focus to talking more generally about “good jobs” rather than a target number.
As the administration approaches 100 days in office, Ms. Harris, the first Black woman to be vice president, still appears to be figuring out how she wants to function in a historically frustrating role.
Her portfolio also includes leading a diplomatic effort with Mexico and Central American countries to address the root causes of migration as well as the crisis at the border. That task offers Ms. Harris an opportunity and a risk: If she appears to take on a hard problem and make progress, she would impress critics who do not see her as a policy heavyweight in the White House. But it also puts her at the forefront of one of the most difficult issues before the administration.
For now, her appearances are mostly tied to policies she championed as a senator. Her speech on Monday followed an appearance last month in Oakland, Calif., where she visited a water treatment plant and underscored the infrastructure plan’s $45 billion in funding to eliminate all lead service lines and to reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and child care centers.
As a senator, Ms. Harris introduced the Water Justice Act, which included emergency funds for communities and schools to test for and remediate or replace toxic infrastructure for drinking water. And she introduced the Clean School Bus Act to assist school districts in replacing diesel school buses with electric buses, her aides said.