Former Vice President Joe Biden has been collaborating with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) to develop specific policy proposals that satisfy both the moderate and progressive factions of the Democratic Party, in a clear attempt to unify the left-wing voter base.
While the policies were not as progressive as Sanders’ initial platform, the ideas brought forward on Wednesday marked a clear shift in Biden’s campaign strategy and focus.
Thejoint task force focused on six key areas: health care, criminal justice, climate change, the economy, education and immigration.
The task force agreed on supporting a government health insurance option offered to Americans on a sliding scale based on income, which would automatically offered at no cost to low-income Americans, part of Biden’s original health plan. However, the task force specified additional requirements, including that certain prescription medicines be offered without any out-of-pocket costs for patients. They also considered expanding Medicare to include treatment options for dental care, vision and hearing loss.
Biden supported several criminal justice reforms, as he has been under particular pressure to do so in the wake of nationwide protests against systemic racism and police brutality. Chief among those were the abolition of private prisons, ending cash bail and mandatory minimum sentences, as well as ending life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders. The task force also touted the idea of creating a federal standard for excessive force by police and proposed creating a national database of police officers who are charged with misconduct.
The task force did not come to a consensus regarding recreational usage of marijuana — something which Sanders supports, but Biden believes should be left up to the states.
On climate change, the task force called global warming a nationwide “emergency” and recognized the ties between pollution and racial injustices which have caused low-income communities to suffer disproportionate levels of air and water pollution. The team also set the benchmarks of eliminating power from fossil fuels by 2035, achieving carbon-neutrality in all new buildings by 2030 and installing 500 million solar panels in the next five years.
The economics task force also heavily weighed racial injustice in their recommendations underscoring that “race-neutral policies are not a sufficient response to race-based disparities.” The team proposed a New Deal-like jobs programs and toyed with the idea of creating a baby bonds proposal which would give every child a government-funded savings account at birth.
The education task force came up with three critical compromises: subjecting charter schools to further federal scrutiny, tripling federal aid for low-income schools and increasing funding for students with disabilities and recommending that public universities be free for families earning less than $125,000 per year and that community colleges be free for all.
On immigration which has been a hot issue since 2016 for President Donald Trump, working to limit refugees, build a Mexican border wall and separate families at the border, the Biden-Sanders task force recommended reversing many of these policies.
They suggested protecting the Dreamers (DACA) program, stopping construction of the border wall, ending the “Muslim ban” against 13 countries and increasing the number of refugees the U.S. accepts annually from Trump’s 18,000 to 125,000.