Rep. Karen Bass is undergoing vetting to be former Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate, according to two people familiar with the process.
Bass, 66, who has represented Los Angeles in the House for five terms, joins a slate of prominent women of color who are in the mix to stand with Biden on the Democratic ticket. She would be the second Californian in the mix, joining Sen. Kamala Harris, who is widely seen to be as among the front-runners.
Biden has said he expects to decide on a running mate around the beginning of August. He has committed to picking a woman and is being urged by a wide swath of Democrats to pick a woman of color.
One of the people who confirmed that Bass was being vetted said she had earned goodwill within the Biden camp for actively supporting him earlier in the campaign when the “ship was listing.”
Bass was appealing, this person said, also because she was not as obviously ambitious for the presidency herself as some of the other contenders, such as Harris, a former rival to Biden for the 2020 nomination. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the confidential process, quoted Biden as saying of the decision: “I’m looking for someone who can do the job, not someone who wants the other job.”
Bass doesn’t have as high a national profile as some of the other women under consideration. But she is well respected among Democrats in California as a former speaker of the state Assembly and on Capitol Hill as the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Her legislative prominence has grown in recent weeks as she has taken the reins — at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request — on a bill to set national standards for policing in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Among other provisions, the bill would ban chokeholds and make civil suits against officers accused of misconduct easier to bring to court.
The Biden campaign’s interest in Bass is recent. Two weeks ago, a Bass spokesman told The Times that the congresswoman “is not aware that she in the mix” regarding vice presidential vetting. Her office declined to comment Tuesday.
Bass’ vetting was first reported by CBS News.
When asked about the reports on Tuesday by MSNBC, Bass deferred to the Biden camp.
“Out of respect for the campaign, if there is any question in that regard, I think they should be directed there,” she said. “My sole focus is on the next 48 hours: one, what happens in the Senate, and, two, getting the bill over to [the] Senate from the House.”
Biden’s campaign declined to comment.
The Biden committee that is vetting potential candidates for vice president has already been in touch with several women in the highly secretive process.
Among those under consideration in addition to Harris are Rep. Val Demings of Florida, former national security advisor Susan Rice and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, all of whom are African American; New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is Latina; and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is Asian American.
Biden is also considering some white women, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. But Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota recently withdrew her name from consideration — her prospects were fading — and said she believed Biden should pick a woman of color as his running mate.
Though a progressive Democrat, Bass has close relationships with Republicans, including House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Bass’ name has been floated for the vice presidency by prominent Democrats, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The former mayor, who has known Bass since the 1970s, said Tuesday that her level of experience “matches up to anyone.”
“The Biden team is going to make this decision based on the skill set, experience and their ability to step in the shoes of the president should that be necessary — and I think that she certainly fits that bill,” Villaraigosa said.
Earlier this month, Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House Democratic whip, urged the Biden camp to choose a Black woman and said that Bass “would be a big plus.”
“A former speaker of the House in California? That’s got to be a plus,” he said. “She is a great person.”