By BEATRICE PETERSON, AVERI HARPER, JOHN VERHOVEK, and MOLLY NAGLE
(WASHINGTON) — After weeks of phone calls and Zoom meetings, former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign released its much-anticipated results from the Biden-Bernie Sanders Unity Task Forces on Wednesday.
The 110-page document lays out policy recommendations for the former vice president and includes language for the Democratic platform ahead of the Democratic Convention in Milwaukee next month.
“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 Senator Sanders for working together to unite our party, and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come,” Biden wrote in a statement announcing the recommendations.
The goal of the task forces, which were formed in May, was to make a unified set of recommendations to the Democratic National Convention’s Platform Committee, and Biden himself, on policy proposals.
The groups were divided into six issue areas: climate change, criminal justice reform, the economy, education, health care and immigration. Each issue had teams of eight people, with four picked by Biden and four picked by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The members were a mix of Biden and Sanders loyalists, experts, community leaders and politicians — ranging from N.Y. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to former secretary of state John Kerry.
Also on the task force were several rumored vice presidential contenders such as Reps. Karen Bass of California and Marcia Fudge of Ohio.
The task forces were led by Analilia Mejia, who was appointed by Sanders, and Carmel Martin, who was appointed by Biden, both of whom worked to coordinate and support the work of the task forces.
Given recent national conversations on race and systemic racism, several sources with knowledge of the task forces work have hinted at racial equality and justice being front and center in many of the platform recommendations.
From the environmental task force led by Kerry and Ocasio-Cortez, popular proposals such as rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement on day one of the Biden administration made it into the recommendations to the DNC. However the New York congresswoman’s bid for a Green New Deal didn’t make the cut. The task force did recommend “Democrats commit to eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 through technology-neutral standards for clean energy and energy efficiency.”
The Biden campaign has called for a rapid scale up calling for 500 million made-in-America solar panels to be installed in the next five years. Jobs for companies to install these solar panels will be from a clean energy economy. The task force stressed that all jobs in the clean energy economy should provide an opportunity to join a union.
Democrats have called for the creation of an “environmental justice fund” aimed at making investments in policies that address the racial inequity in climate change’s impact on Americans.
The document also included recommendations for Biden’s criminal justice policy–a much discussed topic following the death of George Floyd, and a subject that has posed problems for Biden in the past due to his involvement with past criminal justice laws like the 1994 crime bill.
“It is unacceptable that Black parents must have “the talk” with their children, to try to protect them from the very police officers who are supposed to be sworn to protect and serve them. It is unacceptable that more than 1,000 people, a quarter of them Black, are killed by police every year,” the policy states.
Much of the policy tracks with Biden’s previously announced criminal justice plan, pledging to invest in community policing and having a police force representative of the communities they serve; increasing Department of Justice Pattern-or-Practice investigations of police misconduct; and instituting national use of force standard, which would permit deadly force only as a last resort.
“We will require immediate application of these standards to all federal law enforcement agencies and condition federal grants on their adoption at the state and local level,” the document reads, also requiring officers to train in nonviolent tactics, appropriate use of force, implicit bias, and peer intervention, both at the academy and on the job.
The group also recommends lowering the intent standard for federally prosecuting law enforcement officials for civil rights violations.
The policy does not include a call to legalize marijuana, but mirrors Biden’s previous policy of decriminalizing the drug, and expunging the records of those previously charged with cannabis use, among other recommendations.
The task force’s plan on education calls for the desegregation of schools through the funding of magnet schools and busing, referred to as “school transportation initiatives to help facilitate improved integration.” The plan includes tripling Title I funding to eliminate the disproportionate funding between predominately white and majority minority districts. In K-12 schools, it calls for expanding free meal programs and pledges to support wraparound health and nutritions services.
The plan bans for-profit private charter schools, opposes private school vouchers and any policies that would take taxpayer-funded resources away from the public school system. The platform aims to put an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and pledges “adequate resources” for hiring guidance counselors, social workers and school psychologists. It calls for the reinstatement of Title IX protections for transgender students and protections for LGBT students from discrimination. o In higher education, the task force’s plan calls for grants to be given to historically black colleges and universities, minority serving institutions and tribal colleges and universities. It aims to make community colleges tuition-free. The document pledges to authorize up to $10,000 in student relief per borrower, a far cry from Sanders’ plan to forgive all student loan debt. It also places a cap on monthly student loan payments for borrowers with incomes under $25,000. The plan revamps the public service loan forgiveness program and makes enrollment automatic. It recommends the forgiveness of $10,000 in student debt per year for up to 5 years.
On health care, the task force calls for the establishment of a “high-quality public option plan” that is administered by the government and not private companies, but steered clear of mentioning Medicare for All, a hot-button issue during the primaries and a policy Biden has firmly said he does not support.
“Democrats believe we need to protect, strengthen, and build upon our bedrock health care programs, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Affairs system. Private insurers need real competition to ensure they have incentive to provide affordable, quality coverage to every American. To achieve that objective, we will give all Americans the choice to select a high-quality, affordable public option through the Affordable Care Act marketplace,” the document states.
The task force also recommended extending Affordable Care Act coverage to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, and “allowing undocumented immigrants to purchase unsubsidized coverage in the ACA marketplaces.”
The task force also calls for COVID-19 testing and treatment to be “widely available, convenient, and free to everyone.”
Referencing the health disparities highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the task force also recommended that, if elected, Biden issue an executive order directing all relevant federal agencies to document and report areas where significant disparities for people of color exist in the American healthcare system.
The recommendations also include policy surrounding the economy, particularly amid the impacts of the COVID-19 still being felt across the country, with a portion of the policy titled “Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic and President Trump’s Recession.”
‘Make no mistake: President Trump’s abject failure to respond forcefully and capably to the COVID-19 pandemic—his failure to lead—makes him responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and for the pandemic-induced recession that has followed,’ the group writes.
The plan includes calls for a $15 dollar minimum wage, at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers and families, repealing “right to work” laws, and supporting the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and the POWER Act to “enforce wage, hour, health, and safety rules across the economy.”
The recommendations also place a heavy emphasis on addressing the racial wealth gap, including support for a study on reparations.
“Democrats commit to the important first step of supporting H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to examine how the legacy of 246 years of slavery and another century of Jim Crow segregation continues to impact the economic prospects of Black Americans today, and to recommend remedies,” the policy reads.
The policy group focused on immigration honed in heavily on repealing many of the policies enacted by the Trump administration, including travel bans on certain nations they say have disproportionately affected Muslim and African countries, asylum policies, and policies that have lead to family separations.
Following Biden’s lead in calling for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the United States, the task force says they would “work with Congress to reform our immigration system to provide a roadmap to citizenship.”
Biden has said he would introduce an immigration bill in Congress on the first day of his presidency.
The group also recommended that Biden order the Homeland Security Administration’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to “undertake a review of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies and provide recommendations for redress.”
Also among the immigration-related recommendations, the enactment of a “100-day moratorium on deportations of people already in the United States while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices,” at both the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The task force also recommended the reallocation of resources flowing to ICE for training, and to “demand transparency in, and independent oversight over, ICE and CBP’s activities,” and called for the end to programs that “ force local law enforcement to take on the role of immigration enforcement, including by ending all agreements entered into by the Trump Administration.”
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