Police funding, environment and more: Biden and Sanders meet halfway on policy recommendations for DNC

‘The end result is not what I or my supporters would have written alone,’ Mr Sanders says, but nevertheless endorses recommendations

Biden V Trump: US election opinion polls

The task forces created by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders earlier this year to help unify the party against Donald Trump have unveiled their policy recommendations for the official party platform.

The Democratic National Committee will release that platform later this year.

The 110-page document uploaded to Mr Biden’s campaign website on Wednesday is his latest attempt to reach out to progressive voters who propelled Mr Sanders into frontrunner status for a brief period during the Democratic primary season and who have been reluctant to fully back the former vice president heading into the home stretch before Election Day.

The six task forces — on the economy, climate change, health care, education, immigration, and criminal justice reform — included several members of Congress aligned with either Mr Biden or Mr Sanders as well as campaign surrogates, activists, and state and local politicians.

Mr Sanders, a Vermont Independent who has finished second in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries, admitted on Wednesday that “the end result [of the task forces] is not what I or my supporters would have written alone” and that he and Mr Biden still have “strong disagreements” on various policies.

But the task forces “have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families,” he said.

“We must come together in order to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history,” Mr Sanders said.

The document touches on virtually every hot button element of domestic policy, including policing and criminal justice reform as the US continues to reel from the deaths in police custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, and others.

The Biden-Sanders task force on criminal justice reform recommended diverting some federal funding from police departments in order to create a “civilian corps of unarmed first responders such as social workers, EMTs, and trained mental health professionals” who would handle nonviolent emergencies such as mental health emergencies or low-level conflicts.

Such a corps of first responders would “[free] police officers to concentrate on the most serious crimes,” the task force states.

Biden’s mandate

While the recommendations, which will now head to the DNC, lay out a more liberal agenda than the one Mr Biden frequently espoused during his primary battle against Mr Sanders, they certainly do not represent Sandersian progressivism.

After all, Mr Biden won the primaries, giving him something of a mandate to keep campaigning on largely the same platform.

The task forces’ 110-page document, for instance, doesn’t mention Mr Sanders’ signature health care policy, Medicare For All, which aims to replace the current for-profit health insurance market with a universal public plan.

But the plan proposes achieving “universal healthcare” through a “high-quality, affordable public option” through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

The marketplace would “provide at least one plan choice without deductibles, would be administered by the traditional Medicare program, not private companies, and would cover all primary care without any co-payments and control costs for other treatments by negotiating prices with doctors and hospitals, just like Medicare does on behalf of older people,” according to the task forces.

Lower-income Americans not eligible for Medicaid “will be automatically enrolled in the public option at no cost to them, although they may choose to opt out at any time,” the proposal states.

The task force has also recommended lowering the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60.

In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton proposed allowing Americans to “buy into” Medicare beginning at 55.

Green New Deal?

The task force on climate change, however, has recommended more ambitious timelines for achieving net-zero carbon emissions than Mr Biden’s campaign has previously laid out.

Co-chaired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the task force has called for policies that would eliminate carbon pollution from power plants by 2035 and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030, among several other policies contained in the freshman New York congresswoman’s so-called Green New Deal.

On immigration, Mr Biden’s platform shines through with regard to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

While Mr Sanders’ presidential campaign sought to “break up” those agencies and reallocate their resources and personnel within the Department of Homeland Security, the Biden-Sanders unity task force on immigration has recommended improving transparency and accountability within the existing organisational framework.

Lingering disunity

Mr Biden said in a statement on Wednesday he was “deeply grateful” to Mr Sanders for working with him to “unite our party.”

It’s unclear whether the document will have that effect, though.

Several of Mr Sanders’ former campaign staffers have not followed their boss’s lead in endorsing Mr Biden.

Mr Sanders’ former national press secretary, Briahna Joy Gray, has previously said her vote for Mr Biden hinges on whether he “supports Medicare for All, canceling student-loan debt, canceling medical debt, [and] having a wealth tax.”

While the recommendations released by the task forces on Wednesday contain several proposals to address those underlying concerns, they are not in lockstep with Mr Sanders’ campaign platform.

Alex Woodward and John T Bennett contributed to this report.

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