Biden Adopts Sanders' Agenda Items—Here's Where He Aligns With the Left

Allies of Senator Bernie Sanders are privately touting the agenda items they persuaded presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden to adopt in his platform, Newsweek has learned—a litany of progressives' top wishlist items and the latest in Biden's acquiescence to the growing power of the left.

The 17-page document, obtained by Newsweek, lists the "Sanders-driven" recommendations that include education, economy, immigration, health care, criminal justice, and climate task forces. In adopting them, Biden has moved farther left than ever before.

Recent New York Times polling showed one reason why Biden would prioritize shifting left. As of Wednesday, Sanders supporters said they are backing him 87 percent to 4 percent for Trump and supporters of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren completely in his corner at 96 percent to 0. But this gradual shift to embracing Biden—partly aided by time allowing hard primary feelings to soften—was also enabled by his embrace of policies to the left of his own.

These are the policies Biden has adopted from the left since before the primary.

Biden embraced Warren's plan that called for student debt to be relieved in bankruptcy ahead of his final debate with Sanders in mid-March when the coronavirus outbreak was just beginning. Later that month, he also embraced other Warren plans in the wake of the pandemic, calling to provide Americans with bigger social security checks, forgive student debt, and even using Warren's language that zeroed in on the corporate bailout portion of the relief package as a "slush fund." With Warren floated as a top choice to be Biden's running mate, the two continued to partner, penning a joint op-ed in May called "There's no oversight of coronavirus relief because that's what Trump wants."

Biden completed his cycle of adopting Warren policies Thursday, delighting her supporters by embracing a $400 billion plan that would use federal procurement to boost American goods and manufacturing. Sounding like a populist while touting his "Buy American" plan, Biden also echoed Warren's language by saying Wall Street investors "don't need me" and calling for the end of the "era of shareholder capitalism."

Adam Green, co-founder of The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), a group of Warren allies, said Biden understands the enormity of the crisis facing the country and is "smartly" collaborating with Warren and other progressive thinkers and movement leaders to develops solutions.

"The more Biden continues to go in a bold and progressive direction during this crisis, and shows that progressives will have significant seats at the table in his administration, the more energized progressives will become—and the more people will move from being Biden voters to being Biden volunteers and donors," he told Newsweek.

Biden dipped his toe into adopting Sanders policies before the primary ended, but jumped into the deep end of the pool this week by embracing the recommendations for the Democratic National Convention.

Biden introduced a plan before Sanders dropped out that embraced aspects of the Vermont senator's education plan, calling for public colleges and universities to be tuition-free for students if their family incomes are below $125,000. Feeling less charitable before he dropped out of the race, Sanders responded then: "It's great that Joe Biden is now supporting a position that was in the Democratic platform four years ago. Now we have to go much farther."

Biden also plans a form of Sanders' longstanding approach to college debt, calling for canceling up to $50,000 in student loans for educators and $10,000 per year for those in public service, as well as $10,000 per borrower as part of COVID-relief.

In addition to agreeing to no social security cuts of any kind, Sanders allies pushed for and secured language calling for an executive order in a Biden presidency "to prevent companies from receiving federal contracts that outsource jobs overseas" and "pay workers less than $15 an hour without benefits"

Biden, who like Sanders, also called for a moratorium on deportations during the primary, adopted more idea from the left on immigration. They include providing health care to undocumented immigrants during pandemics or health crises and expanding Obamacare coverage to undocumented youth brought to the country as children.

He also adopted a recommendation from Sanders' task force members to ensure reunification of children separated from their families and permit parents who were deported without their children to reopen their cases and be reunited with their children, the document shared with Newsweek showed.

Analilia Mejia, national political director for the Sanders campaign, said Bidens' embrace of the policies are "one step of many."

"The bottom line is if we were able to magically transform Joe Biden into Bernie Sanders on adopting Medicare for All, legalizing marijuana, and a full federal jobs program, we would have celebrated that," she said.

Pushing Biden left was possible and necessary in the eyes of Sanders supporters, Mejia said, but he also has a long record and policies from the primary he wasn't going to abandon. Lofty expectations of him going even further are an effort to "suspend reality," she said.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) shake hands after the Democratic Presidential Debate at Tyler Perry Studios November 20, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia. Alex Wong/Getty