12 Things To Know About Senator Kamala Harris And Why Her Background, Attitude & Political Stances Make Jeff Sessions VERY Nervous

Photo: Los Angeles Times
Kamala Harris

She respects courage not courtesy.

Senator Kamala Harris makes men nervous. In more ways than one.

The first-term United States Senator has definitely attracted more than her share of attention during her short congressional career so far — she was only sworn in back in January  particularly for her aggressive, no-compromising questioning of President Trump’s nominees during Senate confirmation hearings.


Harris’ style shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. She’s an acclaimed and successful lawyer, with a long history of social activism, who became California first female attorney general in 2010.

But her tendency to shatter glass ceilings and treat confirmation hearing questioning like a courtroom cross-examination has won her both praise and scorn from observers.

Earlier this week, the current Attorney General of the United States, Jeff Sessions, admitted that Harris made him “nervous” with her line of questioning.

After Harris asked him a question of during possible conversations he had with Russian businessmen during the 2016 Republican National Convention and, before giving his answer, Sessions shot back with “Will you let me qualify it? If I don't qualify it, you'll accuse me of lying. So I need to be correct as best I can. I'm not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.”

Sessions’ response quickly went viral as did multiple occasions when male Senators interrupted or prevented Harris from asking questions. (Many have argued that textbook mansplaining was the cause for why senators, who never interrupted their male counterparts, felt so comfortable constantly cutting into Harris’ questioning time.)

Harris, meanwhile, argues that she was just trying to get to the truth:

So, if you haven’t heard of her before, the first half of 2017 has proven that you’re going to be hearing about Kamala Harris A LOT in terms of the future of the Democratic Party and the U.S. political landscape.

(Several people are already arguing that Harris might, one day, become the next serious candidate for the United States’ first female president.)

If you want to learn more about this political up-and-comer, here are 12 things everyone should know about U.S. Senator Kamala Harris.

1. She's the daughter of first-generation immigrants.


Who were Kamala Harris' parents and where is her family from? Her mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris, was a breast cancer researcher from Chennai, India (who came to the United States in 1958). Her father, Donald Harris, met her mother while he was in the United States as a Jamaican fellow graduate student  he eventually became an economics professor at Stanford University.

2. She’s broken the United States’ legislative color barrier in more ways than one.

When Harris was elected to Congress in 2016, she became the first ever black politician to represent California in the United States Senate. And, if that wasn’t enough, she’s only the second black woman in history to hold office in The Senate, which seems CRAZY, right?

She is also the very first Indian-American senator. Additionally, to quote Wikipedia, “She was the first woman, the first Jamaican American, the first Asian American, the first Indian American, and the first African American attorney general in California” (which is something).

3. Her first name is kinda beautiful.

What does her name mean? “Kamala” means “Lotus Flower” in Hindi.

4. She married a fellow lawyer in 2014.

In August 2014, Kamala Harris married California attorney Douglas Emhoff — after a five-month engagement. The ceremony was performed by Maya Harris, Kamala's sister, who is also a lawyer and who helped developed the agenda for Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidental campaign.

This is Harris' first marriage (and Emhoff's second). They have no children.

5. She failed her bar exam the first time she took it.

Even though she eventually rose to the top legal spot on the State of California  become the State’s Attorney General in 2010  like many lawyers, Harris struggled with passing the bar the first time she took it.

But that certainly hasn’t stopped her career and, in 2016, she told a recent legal student who failed the bar – “it’s not a measure of your capacity.”)

6. She’s in favor of gun control, but considers herself a “good marksman.”

Harris has publically admonished Congress for failing to pass stricter gun control laws following the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012.

When she was the California Attorney General in 2015, she was quoted as saying, “They should have closed the chambers of Congress, on the House and the Senate side, and said all you members go in there, only you, and spread out the autopsy photos of those babies and require them to look at those photographs. And then vote your conscience.”

However, when the Los Angeles Times asked Harris if she’s fired a gun or gone hunting before, she “stumbled over her words” before saying “I'm a good marksman … That’s it. I'm not going any further with this. You have just broken news.”

7.  As State Attorney General, she defended California’s right to have the death penalty.

Harris has stated that she’s personally against the idea of the death penalty, but as California’s Attorney General in 2014, her office made the decision appeal a federal court decision that ruled that the death penalty in California was unconstitutional.

Her defense of the death penalty attracted a lot of vocal opposition at the time, though an editorial in the Los Angeles Times called the decision “a welcome example of putting professional responsibility over personal politics.”

8. President Obama got in trouble for calling her hot.

In 2013, while Harris was California’s Attorney General, President Obama referred to her at a fundraising event as “the best-looking attorney-general in the country.”

While that may be true, many people were quick to label the President’s comments as sexist, prompting Obama to release an apology where he made clear that he “did not want in any way to diminish the attorney general’s professional accomplishments and her capabilities. He fully recognizes the challenges women continue to face in the workplace and that they should not be judged based on appearance.”

(Both Obama and Joe Biden endorsed Harris in her Senate campaign.)

9. She’s not afraid to turn on her cross-examining skills during Senate confirmation hearings.

Jeff Sessions isn’t the only person who has been subjected to Harris’ penchant for asking tough, uncompromising questions during confirmation hearings.

Need an example? How about this? Back in January 2017, during the confirmation hearings for General John F. Kelly, the new Director of the Department of Homeland Security, Harris was the ONLY senator to ask Kelly about whether or not he’d use personal information obtained by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to deport the more than 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who registered with DACA to avoid deportation.

While that seems like a perfectly reasonable question for the man who will be running the Department of Homeland Security, Harris was the only Senator to broach the topic during the hearing and Kelly replied with only “I do not have a plan at this time, other than enforcement of the law.”

10. Powerful women don’t like it when men say mean things about Kamala Harris.

Harris’ questioning style in Senate hearings has attracted her a lot of attention from her make counterparts, who have described her demeanor in less-than-flattering terms. But, fortunately, many other women have leaped to Harris’ defense when men have tried to throw a label at her.

For example, when Jason Harris, one of Donald Trump’s former aides, called Harris “hysterical” on CNN, political analyst Kirsten Powers challenged his insult saying, “I think she asked a lot of questions, actually. She was very dogged, there’s no question, but I wouldn’t say she was any more dogged than Ron Wyden [D-Ore.] was, would you? Would you say that? … But he wasn’t hysterical and she was. OK, I just wanted to clear that up.”

Furthermore, after Senator Richard Burr questioned Harris’ “courtesy” towards Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted:

11. She’s not afraid to swear when the occasion calls for it.

In May 2017, Harris was being interviewed by the Pod Save America podcast in front of a live audience in San Francisco, and the topic turned to Republican House Representative Raul Labrador, who famously told his constituents, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

Harris’ response was EPIC. She replied, “This guy, this congressman, you might as well say, ‘People don’t starve because they don’t have food.’ What the fuck is that?”

12. She doesn’t want to talk about the chances of her running for President… yet.

Will Kamala Harris run for president in 2020? While she may be new to the United States Senate, many people have wondered publicly if she will follow in Hillary Clinton’s footsteps and become the next major female Democratic candidate for the U.S. Presidency.

But Harris thinks that any talk about her chances to become the first woman president is “distracting.” She told the Mercury News, “Listen, 2020 is in how many years? We are in the Year of our Lord 2017 … There is so much happening in real time right now.  I’ve seen so many people focus on the thing that’s far out there — and trip over the thing that’s in front of them.”