At the start of his administration, President Biden said he wanted to work closely with Vice President Kamala Harris – including having lunch together once a week, a practice he famously enjoyed with Barack Obama as his No. 2.
However, so far this year, the pair has only lunched together twice, a new analysis finds.
In February of last year, Biden told People magazine that he “made the same deal with her that Barack and I made” when it came to Oval Office drop-in privileges and meeting access.
“When Barack and I were working out our relationship early on, he said, ‘Do you have any requests?’ And I said, ‘Well just one: I get to be the last person in the room on every important decision. Not because you have to listen [or] do what I want. You make the decision,’” Biden told the outlet.
“I wanted her available to participate in everything that I did. As I told her: I wanted her to be the last person in the room,” he added.
“[Like Barack and I, we have lunch alone once a week. That’s the deal when we’re both in the country, which we’ll be for a while because of COVID, and I see her all the time.”
But records of the president’s public schedule show that in 2022, Biden and Harris were scheduled for lunch in the private dining room on just Feb. 8 and March 30. Throughout 2021, the pair ate together 23 times.
This year’s lunches have coincided with key administrative action, RealClearPolitics first reported, noting that the March meal occurred shortly after Biden traveled back from Poland amid the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine and the February lunch came during Biden’s search for a Supreme Court nominee.
After Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, Biden lauded Harris’ work in the process, saying she was “invaluable.”
It is unclear if there is any specific reason for why Harris and Biden have not kept their weekly lunches – however the coronavirus may have played a factor. Earlier this year, Harris’ husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, and her communications director Jamal Simmons contracted COVID-19 and the vice president herself tested positive on Tuesday.
Varying administrative duties may also have affected the meals as just last week Harris traveled across California while Biden made trips to Oregon and Washington.
The White House has defended the president and vice president’s relationship, with Deputy Press Secretary Chris Meagher telling RealClearPolitics that the two are “in constant touch with each other.”
“And he relied on her counsel, partnership and friendship as they work together to continue to grow the economy, cut costs for working families, rally the world in the face of Russia’s aggression, and make historic investments in our nation’s infrastructure.”
Press secretary Jen Psaki also told the outlet that the pair’s scheduled lunches “absolutely” remain important.
“Obviously, they are not going to be dining in person while she is quarantining at home,” Psaki added, noting that Harris has remained in close contact with Biden through Zoom and the phone.