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Kamala Harris touts infrastructure plan — and Gov. Newsom — on first official California visit as vice president

Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday gave a boost to the Biden administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, as well as to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s efforts to stave off a recall.

Harris joined Newsom in Oakland on her first official visit to California since taking office. The trip included a tour with the governor of the kind of water treatment facility that could benefit from the proposed infrastructure plan President Joe Biden unveiled last week. It includes more than $100 billion for a variety of water projects, including replacing lead pipes and improving groundwater storage in the West.

Harris said the anticipated water projects would address “equities and inequities of distribution and access to clean water, especially clean drinking water.” She said the program was intended to help metropolitan areas such as Flint, Michigan, which has had a lead crisis in recent years, as well as rural areas, including Iowa and the Mississippi Delta, where people have eroding wells and could be eligible for grants under the administration’s plan.

The eight-year spending plan has drawn opposition from Republicans and objections from a few Democrats. But Harris said in an interview that the projects it would fund should appeal to politicians of both parties.

“Water is a nonpartisan issue,” she said. “These are issues that really should be treated, frankly, not as bipartisan but nonpartisan. The people who are impacted by these issues really, they will be impacted regardless of who they voted for in the last election. And here’s the other piece of it which is equally important: to address water infrastructure is to create millions of jobs, potentially.”

Harris, in her public remarks, made sure to praise the beleaguered Newsom, calling him “a champion about what we need to do around our environment.” She expanded on that support in the interview.

“He has been a real champion in California and outside of California on California priorities,” she said of Newsom, with whom she began her political career in San Francisco. “You know, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s been invested in these kinds of issues that really are issues that are not only challenging California as a state, that are national in scope. So there’s a lot of good work being done, and I think that there’s no question that there are other priorities that I think he is handling well. And for that reason, I’m supporting him.”

Harris also held a session with politicians and small-business owners and planned to stay overnight in Los Angeles. She is scheduled to stop in Chicago on Tuesday, on her way back to Washington, to promote equitable distribution of vaccines.

Harris’ visit, after two private trips to California since becoming vice president, coincided with an Easter-weekend stop at her home in L.A.'s Brentwood neighborhood, where she baked a “beautiful” pork roast and made rice and peas, she said. In Washington, she is in the process of moving into the vice president’s official residence, which has been undergoing renovations, after spending her first few months in the government’s Blair House, across from the White House.

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(Times staff writers Bierman contributed to this story from Washington and Mehta from Los Angeles.)

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