Bernie Sanders’ campaign is declaring victory after striking deals with Hillary Clinton’s allies over climate change, health care and a $15-an-hour minimum wage as Democrats finalized the party’s 2016 platform.
The primary rivals’ negotiators never found common ground on trade — with Clinton’s supporters voting down the Sanders backers’ language to specifically reject the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Sanders supporters were also frustrated to see their proposals denouncing Israeli settlements and banning fracking rejected.
Overall, though, they celebrated, touting the party’s platform — finalized in the wee Sunday morning hours — as one that reflects the causes that animated the Vermont senator’s campaign.
“We got 80% of what we wanted in this platform,” top Sanders foreign policy adviser Warren Gunnels told CNN.
Those successes could keep in place plans for Sanders to appear in person with Clinton on Tuesday in New Hampshire, finally endorsing his Democratic primary rival.
Clinton’s campaign also touted the platform. “We are proud of the work that Democrats did in Orlando and for coming together to further strengthen the most progressive platform in the history of our party,” said Clinton senior policy adviser Maya Harris.
The weekend was the culmination of Sanders’ month-long push, since the Democratic primary contest ended, to move the party’s platform leftward.
“Now let’s put in place a president that can actually deliver on this and let’s make sure that she does,” Sanders supporter Ben Jealous, the former NAACP head, said in a nod to Clinton after the climate deal was announced.
Clinton backers reject TPP amendment
Sanders supporters’ top priority had been trade, and it was the biggest point of contention between the two camps.
When their proposal to oppose the Pacific Rim deal was rejected, Sanders supporters shouted “shame!” and “fake progressive!” at Clinton backers on the Democratic National Committee’s platform panel here, as the party met to finalize its official positions on issues ahead of its convention later this month in Philadelphia.
Some vowed to force a vote on the convention floor on whether to oppose the trade pact in the party’s platform.
“If it were not for the Sanders campaign, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” said pro-Sanders delegate Cornel West, the civil rights activist and philosopher. “We don’t want window dressing in talking about working people.”
By keeping specific opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership out of the platform, Democrats avoided embarrassing President Barack Obama, whose administration has spent most of his two terms negotiating the massive 12-nation trade deal.
However, the decision also opens up Clinton and other Democrats to questions about whether their opposition to the Pacific Rim pact is sincere.
It’s a politically precarious position as presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump turns decades of Republican pro-trade orthodoxy on its head, regularly railing against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other free trade deals on the campaign trail.
Democrats approved an amendment to the platform proposed by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union president Lee Saunders, which laid out priorities trade deals should address, including labor policy, the environment and currency manipulation.
“These are standards all Democrats believe should be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” the amendment said.
But when Jealous sought a tweak to Saunders’ proposal that would have explicitly stated that those reasons are why Democrats oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, he ran into opposition, as Clinton’s camp — supporting the White House, and led on the floor by Saunders — called it unnecessary.
Jealous pointed to Trump’s stance, saying Democrats face something “we have never seen before — which is a Republican opponent who intends to run clearly against the TPP.”
“We must empower every representative of the Democratic Party to speak clearly against the TPP,” he said.
Jealous added: “Hillary is against the TPP. Bernie is against the TPP. Let’s not be bureaucrats — let’s be leaders.”
None of the pro-Clinton Democrats spoke in favor of the trade deal.
Instead, Saunders sought to cast the party as already unified on trade — even as he opposed the Jealous language.
“We have to open opposition to TPP from both of our candidates running for president of the United States. For once — for once — all Democratic candidates and labor are of one view: No on TPP,” Saunders said.
Minutes later, another pro-Sanders delegate, Jim Hightower, proposed an amendment that specifically denounces the Trans-Pacific Partnership and says Democrats will oppose giving it a vote — even in a lame-duck session of Congress before the next president is sworn in. That, too, was rejected.
It led more than a dozen furious Sanders supporters to walk out of the meeting.
“You don’t care about the people!” one shouted.
The trade fight likely isn’t over. Sanders supporter Jonathan Tasini said “there’s absolutely no doubt” that his side will file a “minority report” calling for a vote against the Trans-Pacific Partnership on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
That mechanism, which Sanders has enough votes to use, will force another trade debate, with all of the convention’s delegates able to vote.
Sanders prevails on minimum wage
The trade battle was one major loss in a weekend that has included several victories for Sanders.
Democrats amended their platform late Friday to call for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage — a Sanders priority from the outset of his 2016 campaign.
The amendment calls for the change “over time” — less specific language than Sanders had wanted, making it a concession for Clinton.
But it is much more specific than the previous draft of the platform, which said Americans “should earn more than $15 an hour” but didn’t mention the federal minimum wage specifically.
The amendment calling for the $15-an-hour federal minimum wage was introduced by former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, a Sanders supporter.
Mary Kay Henry, the international president of the Service Employees International Union, proposed adding language that included the phrase “over time.”
Both were adopted without a fight — the product of hours of negotiations between the Clinton and Sanders camps at an Orlando hotel on the first day of the two-day meeting.
The minimum wage language pushes Clinton left of the position she’s taken on the campaign trail. She has supported a $12-an-hour federal minimum wage, as well as local efforts to set higher minimum wages in places like New York and California.
Clinton, Sanders camps strike climate deal
The Clinton and Sanders camps struck a bargain on climate change. While Sanders didn’t get the carbon tax he wanted, the compromise says that “greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals.”
It calls for the same standard Obama used to reject the Keystone XL pipeline — saying it would “significantly exacerbate” global warming — to apply to all pipeline projects.
It also calls for investment in new infrastructure projects such as renewable power and advanced vehicle manufacturing.
The Sanders camp had pushed for a national moratorium but knew, as part of the broader climate deal, that they’d lose that fight.
“Gasland” director Josh Fox pushed the proposed ban, calling fracking “an abomination and a horror” and saying, “There is a political revolution going on in this country and fracking has no place in it.”
Sanders’ supporters were on their feet as he spoke, chanting, “No fracking way!”
But Clinton’s backers replaced the language of Fox’s proposal with a much more nuanced version, calling for a restriction on fracking “where states and local communities oppose it.”
That change got boos from Sanders supporters, but minutes later they cheered the broader climate compromise.
Clinton backs public option on health care
Clinton on Saturday also expressed support for expanding taxpayer-funded health insurance, in a nod to the desires of Sanders’ supporters. She affirmed support for the so-called “public option,” which would expand health insurance coverage beyond the current provisions in Obamacare.
Clinton has supported the public option for decades. But she ran in the Democratic primary as a candidate who wanted to expand Obamacare and used Sanders’ support for a public option against him, saying it would be too costly and run into interference from Republican governors.
“We have more work to do to finish our long fight to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America,” Clinton said in a statement released by her campaign. “Already, the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans. As president, I will make sure Republicans never succeed in their attempts to strip away their care and that the remaining uninsured should be able to get the affordable coverage they need to stay healthy.”
Clinton also called for allowing people 55 years and older to be able to enroll in Medicare. Currently, the typical age for enrollment is 65.
On a conference call, Sanders called it “an important step forward in expanding health care in America and expanding health insurance and health care access to tens of millions of Americans. I congratulate Secretary Clinton for this extremely important initiative. It will save lives. It will ease suffering.”
Clinton’s backers reject Israel settlements language
Clinton supporters rejected an effort Saturday to add a call for “an end to occupations and illegal settlements” in Palestinian territories into the Democratic platform.
Clinton’s backers argued that the current language in the party’s platform, calling for negotiations for a two-state solution in Israel to give Palestinians a homeland, are enough and that going further would inflame tensions and undercut U.S. diplomats’ ability to lead future negotiations.
But Sanders’ supporters — as well as dozens of young people in the crowd — said the language they’d proposed simply repeated a position Clinton herself has taken in the past.
“This is a moral issue. This is an issue of our time. It has spiritual and moral implications,” said Cornel West, the pro-Sanders civil rights activist and philosopher. “Democratic Party, you’ve been in denial for too long. Palestinians ought to be free.”
The amendment was voted down, 73-95. Its rejection led to the loudest boos of the day, with one man being escorted out after he stood up and declared that Democrats had “sold out to (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).”
Marijuana legalization pathway approved
The biggest cheers of the day came when the platform committee voted 81-80 for platform language calling for a “reasonable pathway to future legalization” of marijuana.
The panel also approved criminal justice language endorsed by both campaigns — with Jealous making the pitch for Sanders and Ben Crump, the lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s family, for Clinton’s side.
It calls for the mandatory use of police body cameras, and says Democrats will “stop the use of weapons of war that have no place in our communities.” The platform doesn’t detail what it classifies as “weapons of war.”
It also calls for the Justice Department to investigate all “questionable or suspicious” police shootings.
Still up at the Democratic platform meeting in Orlando are potentially contentious fights over issues like fracking and a carbon tax.
Asked whether his planned meeting with Clinton would happen, and whether there are plans for further joint events, Sanders said: “We look forward to continue working with the Clinton campaign and we’ll have more to say as to where we go forward in the near future.”