'The Same Deal That Barack and I Made’: How Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Are Working Together

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Sandra Sobieraj Westfall
·4 min read
'The Same Deal That Barack and I Made’: How Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Are Working Together
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‘The Same Deal That Barack and I Made’: How Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Are Working Together

The president and first lady on surviving tragedy, keeping romance alive — after 43 years! — and starting the nation’s new chapter.

How will Joe Biden and Kamala Harris work together?

It'll be much in the same way as the former vice president did with Barack Obama, newly sworn-in President Biden tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story.

Asked whether Harris, 56, has drop-in privileges at the Oval Office, Biden says that she does — "I made the same deal with her that Barack and I made," he says, referring to how Obama famously told Biden he would figure prominently in decision-making in the White House.

"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," Biden says. "Not because you have to listen [or] do what I want. You make the decision.' "

Now sitting in the West Wing himself, Biden, 78, says Harris, 56, is afforded that same access.

"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 says.

"[Like] Barack and I, we have lunch alone once a week," Biden says. "That's the deal when we're both in country, which we'll be for a while because of COVID, and I see her all the time."

Biden and Obama's relationship was one of the enduring stories of that administration, where Biden had broad responsibility as the No. 2. By many accounts, the men enjoyed a close personal relationship though they had their differences: in temperament and in approaches to policy-making.

• For more from Joe and Jill Biden's first White House interview, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz From left: Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden walk from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building en route to the West Wing of the White House on Jan. 25.

Biden's bond and work with Obama was a central theme of his 2020 presidential campaign.

Obama stumped for his old running mate in the run-up to the November election, including campaigning in-person for Biden at a drive-in rally in Flint, Michigan.

Obama also offered kind words for Biden in his memoir A Promised Land, writing that his vice president "had heart" due to the losses throughout Biden's life.

"He had endured unimaginable tragedy," Obama wrote. "Joe was decent, honest, and loyal. I believed he cared about ordinary people."

In this week's PEOPLE cover story, Biden sat down with wife Dr. Jill Biden, who echoed the importance of a strong relationship with Harris.

The first lady says the vice president — the first woman, first Black person first Asian person in the role — is one of the "best things" about the administration.

Celeste Sloman Jill and Joe Biden on the February 15 cover of People

Maya Harris/Twitter From left: President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: President Biden and Dr. Biden streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

"I was so proud when Joe chose a woman to be his vice president and I think it meant so much to all women across this country and to see her there," Dr. Biden, 69, says, '"and to see her get sworn in on Inauguration Day was really part of the excitement."

In August, Harris and Biden sat with PEOPLE for their first joint interview as running mates.

Harris, who had sparred with Biden during the Democratic primary, said then that he "had the audacity to say he was going to have a woman as his vice president. He didn't apologize for it. In a country where we still have so much to do to fight toward our ideals, he just fast-forwarded the whole thing."

Harris — who was first introduced to Biden through his late son, Beau — also said that she saw her role as providing "honest feedback" while "supporting his agenda and supporting him in every way."

"The easy part of this is like my relationship with Barack," Biden said then: "We trusted each other."