Bipartisan dinner soothes Harris-Warren tensions

Bipartisan dinner soothes Harris-Warren tensions

Tensions have grown heated over the past month between Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

First, Warren offended Harris and her team after she was asked in a January interview if President Biden should keep Harris as his vice president.  

“I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team,” the senator told a Boston radio station.

Then, after Warren realized what she had done, she called Harris twice to offer an apology, as CNN reported this week. Harris didn’t return her phone calls, the news outlet also said.  

On Tuesday night, Harris hosted a bipartisan dinner — attended by Warren — for female senators at the U.S. Naval Observatory, something she has done a couple of times, sources said.

A source familiar with the dinner said that invites were extended more than a month ago as part of a long-running Senate tradition.

The dinner — featuring Harris’s signature cheese puffs and chicken — was partly aimed at quashing the storyline with Warren and putting the skirmish behind them.

“No one was benefitting from this,” said one source familiar with the tiff.  “They had to get rid of it.”

On Wednesday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) tweeted a video of the dinner with senators sitting around a couch, smiling and waving at a camera. Warren is seen near Harris with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) sitting between them.  

Allies close to both women acknowledge that there was “beef”— as one put it— and it only ballooned after news reports on the skirmish made the rounds since late January after Warren did the interview on a local Boston radio show.  

Harris’s allies were annoyed that Warren made the remark in the first place. “It was perceived to be a real slap in the face,” one ally said.  

Warren’s allies thought it was disrespectful of the vice president not to return the senator’s calls, even as one source called the whole thing overblown.  

The narrative picked up steam when CNN reported the tension and national programs including ABC’s “The View” used it as part of their roundtable discussion on Monday.  

“I don’t know what the hell is wrong with Democrats?” said Ana Navarro, a co-host of the daytime talk show and longtime Republican strategist who backed Biden in 2020 and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.  

“Listen, here’s the bottom line: Joe Biden is going to be your nominee,” an exasperated Navarro continued. “Stop talking about how old he is, and Kamala Harris is going to be your vice president. So stop fretting. Stop wringing your hands and get behind your ticket. Because on the side, the alternative is [former President] Donald Trump or [Florida Gov.] Ron DeSantis [R]. So, you tell me what you prefer.”  

Behind the scenes, some Democrats rolled their eyes at the squabble between two of their party’s most prominent women.  

“This is privileged people’s problems. Meanwhile, on main street people are really suffering,” said Nina Turner, a progressive activist who served as co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign.

“It’s been over a month, and I kind of understand where the vice president is coming from,” Turner added. “She’s certainly under no obligation to return Senator Warren’s call, and that may seem uncouth, that may seem like, dang, that’s cold. But hey, the vice president obviously feels like she was transgressed.”

For months, Democrats have quietly grumbled about Harris and have wondered about her future political prospects — particularly if Biden decided against running in the 2024 race. Some questioned whether Harris is ready to go up against a Republican candidate like Trump or DeSantis.

And others have blamed Biden for not properly positioning her in case she was the Democratic nominee in 2024 or down the line in 2028.  

“I think that narrative hasn’t been helpful for Harris,” one Democratic strategist said. “That’s why you’re seeing all these hurt feelings from her side.”

Turner agreed.

“Maybe [Warren] didn’t mean to take a swipe at Harris, but it’s all in how Harris feels about it, and I think because she’s been probably not utilized properly by this president, anything said about her seems like a swipe,” she said.  

For now, Warren’s attention seems to be focused elsewhere. While news about the Silicon Valley Bank controversy sent shockwaves through Washington and New York, Warren made the rounds on television this week and wrote an op-ed in the New York Times detailing what she called “bank failures” while suggesting that more damage is preventable. 

Another Democratic strategist said it’s smart for the two women to move on.  

“This isn’t grade school,” the strategist said.

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