Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) claimed she misheard Thursday night’s debate question in which she signaled support for the elimination of private insurance, but this is not the first time she has swiftly reversed positions on that topic and a range of other issues.
Many say Harris had somewhat of a breakout night, aggressively pushing Joe Biden (D) on issues of race. However, the debate also revealed Harris’ stunning ability to swiftly reverse positions on key topics.
Here are five of Harris’ most notable flip flops of the past.
1. Abolishing private insurance
NBC moderator Lester Holt asked the field of candidates Thursday if they supported abolishing private insurance altogether.
“Many people watching at home have health insurance through their employer. Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan?” he asked.
Both Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Harris raised their hands.
However, Harris swiftly reversed her position, telling CBS This Morning’s Tony Dokoupil on Friday that she misheard the question.
So the question was, “Would you be willing to give up your private insurance?” Harris began.
“That’s not how it was asked,” Dokoupil noted. ”That’s what you heard, right?”
“OK, that’s certainly what I heard,” Harris said, reiterating her support for Medicare for all.
“I am supportive of Medicare for all. And under Medicare for all policy, private insurance clearly exists and for supplemental coverage. But under Medicare for all, in my version of it, we would actually extend benefits,” she claimed.
— Sarah Dolan (@sarahedolan) June 28, 2019
That is not the first time Harris has reversed positions on eliminating private insurance. During a CNN-hosted town hall in Iowa in January, Harris explicitly expressed support for its elimination.
She told Jake Tapper:
The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require.
“Who of us has not had that situation where you’ve got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don’t know if your insurance company is going to cover this. Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.
During a wide-ranging interview with Tapper in May, Harris reversed her position, claiming that she did not mean her previous remarks.
“That’s not what I meant!” Harris said of her previous position of eliminating private insurance.
“I support Medicare for all but I really do need to clear up what happened on that stage,” she continued. “It was in the context of saying let’s get rid of all the bureaucracy.”
2. Reporting arrests to ICE
Harris spoke strongly against the Trump administration’s illegal immigration policies Thursday night, promising to reinstate DACA status and eliminate private detention centers on day one.
She is not a fan of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) either. Last November, Harris came under fire for attempting to draw parallels between ICE and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) during a hearing with former Acting Director Ronald Vitiello.
“And what was the motivation for the use of fear and force?” Harris asked in reference to the KKK’s activities.
“It was based on race and ethnicity,” Vitiello said.
“Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws?” Harris asked. “Do you see any parallels?”
“I see no perception that puts ICE in the same category as the KKK,” Vitiello said.
She even introduced the Families Not Facilities Act in November, aimed to “prohibit ICE from using information about caretakers who come forward for unaccompanied children.”
Children don’t belong in detention facilities. Yesterday Senator @RonWyden and I introduced the Families Not Facilities Act, which would prohibit ICE from using information about caretakers who come forward for unaccompanied children.https://t.co/gjKox9CUAN
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 15, 2018
However, Harris supported a controversial 2008 policy that required law enforcement to report illegal immigrant minors suspected of committing crimes to ICE during her time as district attorney of San Francisco.
She tried to justify her position during a podcast interview earlier this year. She said handing children over to ICE was an “unintended consequence of the policy,” adding, “I did not support that consequence of that policy.”
Harris spoke at length about her past during a February interview with The Breakfast Club. During the interview, she joked about smoking pot and listening to Snoop Dogg and Tupac.
— The Breakfast Club (@breakfastclubam) February 11, 2019
These days, Harris says the U.S. should legalize marijuana in order to “restore justice”:
It’s time we legalize marijuana at the federal level and restore justice to our communities. Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. We must reverse this trend.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) April 20, 2019
However, Harris adamantly opposed pot during her time as a prosecutor. When she was running for district attorney in 2010, her campaign manager reportedly said:
Spending two decades in court rooms, Harris believes that drug selling harms communities. Harris supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana but does not support anything beyond that.
According to Reason, Harris “laughed at a reporter in response to the very idea (pushed by her Republican opponent) of legalized recreational use” as recently as 2014.
4. Criminal justice reform
In January, Harris decided to take a hardline stance on criminal justice reform. She tweeted, “Let’s speak the truth that too many unarmed black men and women are killed.”
“And too many Black and brown Americans are locked up. From mass incarceration to cash bail to policing, our criminal justice system needs drastic repair,” she continued:
Let’s speak the truth that too many unarmed black men and women are killed. And too many Black and brown Americans are locked up. From mass incarceration to cash bail to policing, our criminal justice system needs drastic repair.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 27, 2019
Those remarks do not necessarily line up with Harris’ previous positions, particularly those held during her tenure as California’s attorney general. In 2014, Harris’ office reportedly fought to keep eligible prisoners from being released because “prisons would lose an important labor pool.”
While Harris has bragged about her glowing LGBT rights record, it is not without flaws. Interestingly, Harris sided with the state’s 2015 decision to hold off on granting gender reassignment surgeries to two inmates, despite a physician’s recommendation.
As the Washington Blade reported:
One case involved Shiloh Quine, who’s serving a term of life for first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery. The other case involved Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, who was serving time in prison in Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, Calif., for second-degree murder. Both were prescribed gender reassignment surgery, but the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation refused to provide the procedure.
The process of the Norsworthy case was quite public as it proceeded through litigation. Although U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar ordered California to grant Norsworthy gender reassignment surgery, Harris in her capacity as attorney general appealed the decision to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and fought to reverse the decision.
One 29-page brief in the case, signed by Harris, urges a stay on the court order for Norsworthy because the hormone treatment the inmate receives is sufficient — at least for the time being.
Harris addressed her controversial role during a press conference in January, saying:
I was, as you are rightly pointing out, the attorney general of California for two terms and I had a host of clients that I was obligated to defend and represent and I couldn’t fire my clients, and there are unfortunately situations that occurred where my clients took positions that were contrary to my beliefs.
She took “full responsibility” for her office’s actions but noted that there were likely workers who did not “personally” consult with her on all matters.
“And it was an office with a lot of people who would do the work on a daily basis, and do I wish that sometimes they would have personally consulted me before they wrote the things that they wrote?” Harris added. “Yes, I do.”