Congresswoman Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is undergoing vetting as a candidate to be Joe Biden’s running mate, CBS News has learned according to sources familiar with the process.
The five-term congresswoman represents Los Angeles and endorsed Biden for president in mid-March.
It is not immediately clear where Bass stands in the vetting process but her name has been floated for consideration by powerful Democrats like House Majority Whip James Clyburn. “Karen Bass would be a big plus…she is a great person in my mind, I work with her every day,” Clyburn told CNN in June when asked about Biden’s vetting process.
Clyburn specifically cited her previous leadership experience as speaker of the California Assembly, the first African-American woman to lead the chamber, as fitting preparation for the White House.
Her current leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus has taken on even greater importance, since she recently unveiled House Democrats’ slate of police reforms in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the nationwide protests for racial equality.
“I’m inclined to push the envelope as far as we can because we have a moment now,” Bass said of the policing reform proposal in an interview with CBS News’ Major Garrett on “The Takeout” podcast.
Bass’ vetting comes as pressure builds on Biden to pick a woman of color to join him on the ticket.
In a recent interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell after he met with Floyd’s family in Texas, Biden was adamant that the recent racial tensions and spotlight on civil rights have not dramatically altered his criteria in picking a running mate.
This new vetting also comes after Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar withdrew her name from vice presidential consideration, saying that she directly implored Biden to pick a woman of color.
From her perspective, Bass told Garrett she “would certainly like to see” a woman of color chosen as Biden’s running mate but added it was not “imperative.”
Neither Bass’ congressional office nor Biden’s campaign immediately responded to a request for comment.
Before politics, Bass’ career was in healthcare as a physician assistant, notable experience as the country continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the seriousness of the pandemic set in during late March, Bass joined Biden for a livestream event about the problems faced by medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
“I worked in the trauma center at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, I remember working without protection and I remember the fear I had every day,” Bass said on the livestream about her work in Los Angeles. “I know the commitment you have to save lives even if it means putting your own life at risk. The nation thanks you for your service.”
In 2010, the congresswoman was honored with the Profile in Courage Award for her bipartisan work in striking a legislative deal to address the 2009 financial crisis in California. Bass and her fellow leaders “set aside party loyalties and ideological differences and fashioned a solution to rescue California from the brink of financial ruin,” Caroline Kennedy said in delivering the award.
Bass’ vetting comes as Biden’s team of running mate head hunters is entrenched in an intensive vetting of candidates, a process that includes an extensive review of documents, public and private records and lengthy written questionnaires and interviews.
There are several other women of color under consideration to join the White House ticket. CBS News recently reported that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Representative Val Demings and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, are now being considered more seriously for the role than they were weeks prior. An announcement has been previewed around August 1.
One of the women helping Biden make his decision is Delaware Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester. She has been honest about how race will factor into her deliberation.
“If we want to transform this country, this is the time to recognize…the leadership of black women,” Blunt Rochester said on a recent livestream. “We won’t be taken for granted.”