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Vice President Kamala Harris steps into new foreign policy role

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White House officials say Vice President Kamala Harris will prioritize cybersecurity and global health as part of her foreign policy role. CBS News White House reporter Tim Perry joins CBSN to explain.

Video Transcript

- President Biden has made it clear that repairing global alliances is critical. And we've learned that Vice President Harris will be integral to that foreign policy effort. For more, let's bring in CBS News White House reporter Tim Perry. Tim, always great to see you. So we're a little bit more than a month into the new administration. How involved is Vice President Harris, and what has she accomplished so far in terms of foreign policy?

TIM PERRY: Right. So first of all, thank you for having me on. And I think that what the president said throughout the campaign trail and what he continues to say now is that he wants Vice President Harris to be a partner. And that is exactly what we see right now. You know, they are-- it's a very clear sign that they are in this together. And as you mentioned in the intro, the first agenda for both of them is to kind of repair the alliances that might not have been doing so well during the last administration.

And so you asked what has the vice president been doing already. What we've seen is she's been taking part in numerous calls. She-- her first call with an international leader was actually with the World Health Organization head. And you know, the other big agenda item on their plate is getting the pandemic under control. And the last administration actually pulled the US out of the World Health Organization.

So you see her making calls with that organization, but you also see her making calls with other allies the United States has. She's spoken with the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, and she's also spoken with the French president, Emmanuel Macron. So you know, she's making these calls with world leaders.

And additionally, she's also getting the president's daily brief on an almost daily basis, which is not always typically common between a president and a vice president. And I've been told from some White House sources who've been in the meetings with the president and the vice president that she's a very integral part in those meetings. So as I said before, it's a very clear sign that she is a partner with Joe Biden. And we'll see how that goes going forward.

- That's interesting, Tim, and it certainly does give us a sense of what the vice president plans to prioritize over the next four years. How does her previous experience, especially on the Senate Intelligence Committee, prepare her for this particular foreign policy engagement?

TIM PERRY: Right. So what CBS News has learned is that, in addition to the two main agenda items that the administration has, Vice President Harris has her own particular interests and some of the-- her own top priorities that she'd like to see herself a part of going forward. And you mentioned her time on the Senate Intelligence Committee. One of those topics that she's super interested in is technology and cybersecurity. And as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, that was a huge part of what she did on a daily basis. And that was also really good experience for her going forward.

As you know, the Senate Intelligence Committee is a very nonpartisan committee. It's actually one of the most nonpartisan committees because there are no cameras allowed inside. And so people actually have to do work, which is, you know, sometimes not always the norm on Capitol Hill. And so you see-- so we know that technology is going to be a really big issue for her to take control of. But not just cybersecurity, but also getting a hand on the future of technology, getting her hands on where we go with 5G, where we go with broadband access, and expanding that not just here in the States, but also overseas to some allies.

Additionally, because we are in the middle of a pandemic, we know that the vice president's going to have her hands very full with how the nation responds to global health initiatives. We know that the pandemic's only going to be one part of that equation, as well. Sources tell me that she also wants to focus on maternal health, as well, and child health, and food and water insecurities.

And that hearkens back to her time as a California senator, as well. She was the writer-- she wrote, I'm sorry, she wrote the legislation for Black maternal mortality issues while she was a senator. That was actually the first thing that she brought to the Senate floor. So those are the two topics that she will be focused on, in addition to the wide range of issues that the administration wants to focus on.

- It's quite an expansive portfolio, Tim. And in some ways, it may echo what we had previously seen with Vice President Biden and President Obama. But there's always speculation about what President Harris's involvement in foreign policy might signal for 2024. Are you hearing anything about that?

TIM PERRY: Well, if you were to ask her or any people around her, they would actually absolutely tell you that 2024 is not in their peripheral at the moment. They've got their hands full with a plethora of issues right now. But you know, one historian put it best to me, and it was a vice president can only do as much as what the president allows them-- allows him or her to do. And in this case, it's very clear that the president is, one, treating Vice President Harris as a partner, as we've mentioned before. She's got her hands full with a lot of the top priorities that the country is facing right now internationally.

But additionally, he is treating her as somewhat as a mentee, and he's mentoring her for the future. As you mentioned, President Biden, when he was vice president, came in with decades of foreign policy experience. He was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And Vice President Harris did not come in with that same type of experience, but she comes in with a fresher and a new approach to foreign policy that some people within the White House and also some foreign policy experts I speak to outside of the White House say can be a very vital and very strong asset to this White House. But what I do hear with regards to 2024 is that it is going to be very important that she has a win, and a major policy international win overseas.

- All right, Tim Perry, thank you.

TIM PERRY: Thank you.