Sanders’ imprint on Democratic platform

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., delivers his “Where We Go From Here” speech, Friday, June 24, 2016, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Democrats approved a draft of the party platform early Saturday that includes steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocates for a $15 an hour wage and urges the abolition of the death penalty, reflecting the influence of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Supporters of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton defeated measures pushed by Sanders’ allies that would have promoted a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system, a carbon tax to address climate change and impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracking.

Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton but has so far declined to offer a full-throated endorsement of her campaign or encourage his millions of voters to back her candidacy. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform at the summer convention to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress.

“We lost some but we won some,” said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the panel. “We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before.” Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: “We’ve made some substantial moves forward.”

The convention’s full Platform Committee will consider the draft platform in Orlando, Florida, next month and it will be voted on at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in late July.

The platform is a statement of the party’s values and positions on a wide range of issues. While it does not bind the Democratic nominee to specific policies, it serves as a guidepost for the party moving forward.

Deliberating late into the evening, the group considered the document’s language on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, an issue that has divided Democrats. The committee defeated an amendment led by Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with “an end to occupation and illegal settlements” and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza.

Zogby said Sanders had helped craft the language. The draft reflects Clinton’s views and advocates working toward a “two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict” that guarantees Israel’s security with recognized borders “and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”

In many cases, Clinton’s side gave ground to Sanders. The document calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a “starvation wage,” a term often used by Sanders.

Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, while Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible.

Sanders’ allies wanted the draft to specify that a $15 per hour minimum wage should be indexed with inflation. But Clinton’s side struck down the amendment, noting that the document already included a call to “raise and index the minimum wage.”

The committee also adopted language that said it supports a variety of ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers’ bank deposits, “including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall.”

Sanders supports reinstating the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited commercial banks from engaging in investment banking activities. Clinton does not support reinstating the law but said her proposed financial reforms would cast a wider net by regulating the shadow banking system.

And it approved language calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Clinton said during a debate earlier this year that it should only be used in limited cases involving “heinous crimes,” while Sanders said the government should not use capital punishment.

Sanders, a vociferous opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was unable to get language into the document opposing the trade deal, a move that allowed the party to avoid an awkward scenario that would have put the platform at odds with President Barack Obama.

Clinton and Sanders have opposed the TPP but members of the panel instead backed a measure that said “there are a diversity of views in the party” on the TPP and reaffirmed that Democrats contend any trade deal “must protect workers and the environment.”

In a setback for Sanders, the panel narrowly rejected amendments offered by environmentalist Bill McKibben, a Sanders supporter, that would have imposed a tax on carbon and imposed a national moratorium on fracking.

The panel deliberated for about nine hours following several late nights and long hours of policy exchanges between the two campaigns and the Democratic National Committee.

Sanders, in a statement, said he was “disappointed and dismayed” that the group voted down the measure opposing the TPP. But he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty — and vowed to fight on.

“Our job is to pass the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” he said.


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