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Democrats' joint policy proposals largely eschew Bernie Sanders' agenda

Tyler Pager, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- The task forces created to forge a united platform from the policies of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders largely sidestepped the most sweeping proposals at the core of Sanders' presidential campaign.

In a 110-page document released Wednesday, the task forces offered hundreds of policy recommendations that will be submitted to the Democratic National Committee, which will craft the official party platform.

After securing the Democratic nomination, Biden worked with Sanders to create "Unity Task Forces," in which allies worked across six policy areas to bridge policy gaps between the progressive Vermont senator and more centrist former vice president. But, in the end, the document produced by the task forces shows little evidence of a dramatic leftward shift from Biden.

There is no mention of "Medicare for All," tuition-free public college or the Green New Deal, three of Sanders' signature proposals that call for remaking the American health care system and the economy and significantly increasing access to college.

Some of the progressive proposals that the task forces did advocate for include eliminating carbon emissions for power plants by 2035, banning for-profit charter schools, prohibiting government contracts to companies that pay less than a $15 minimum wage and new guidelines for use of force by police.

In a statement, Sanders acknowledged the task forces did not achieve many of his policy goals, but he still reiterated his support for Biden.

"While Joe Biden and I, and our supporters, have strong disagreements about some of the most important issues facing our country, we also understand that we must come together in order to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history," Sanders said in a statement.

The show of unity struck a contrast from the 2016 election when Sanders held back from endorsing Hillary Clinton until the convention and some of his supporters refused to vote for her in the general election.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Sanders supporter who served on the climate task force, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, even though two policies she promotes -- the Green New Deal and the elimination of fracking -- aren't mentioned in the document.

 

In a Twitter post, she said she was pleased the task force had been able to recommend a target for clean energy that accelerates the target of 100% clean energy by 15 years compared with Biden's proposal.

Many of the policies are aimed at rolling back policies set by the Trump administration, particularly with regard to immigration, climate change and housing and ways to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report hues closely to mainstream Democratic thinking, as it calls for investments in infrastructure, care work, clean energy and small businesses.

The report also includes dozens of policies focused on addressing systemic racism and income inequality, including having regulators consider the effects on future mergers on the labor market and low-income and racially marginalized communities and break up corporations if they are using market power to "engage in anti-competitive activities."

"For the millions of Americans facing hardship due to President Trump's failed coronavirus response, this election offers the chance to usher in a stronger, fairer economy that works for our working families," Biden said in a statement. "I commend the Task Forces for their service and helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country. And I am deeply grateful to Sen. Sanders for working together to unite our party, and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come."

The task forces, which were formed in May, included politicians, academics and activists that were appointed by Biden and Sanders. The groups met weekly by Zoom over the last several weeks, covering the economy, health care, criminal justice, education, climate change and immigration.

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