From 'universal' income to Green New Deal, 15 far-out ideas from the 2020 Democratic field
Court packing? Reparations? Abolishing the Electoral College?
To all these questions and more, the response from 2020 Democratic presidential candidates is increasingly: Sure, let's talk about it.
For a Democratic presidential field shaping up to be the most liberal grouping of candidates in modern American history, it appears no idea is too far-reaching to at least consider. Some, like the Green New Deal, have become virtual litmus tests for the base that have been widely embraced by the field, while others are just starting to catch on.
At this early stage in the race, here are 15 of the most controversial ideas being pushed or considered by the 2020 Democratic roster.
Throw out the Electoral College
Stinging from an unexpected defeat in 2016, Democrats have cited the fact that Hillary Clinton won a plurality of the popular vote to revive calls to eliminate the Electoral College. Perhaps concerned about their own chances in swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, 2020 hopefuls claim there's much wisdom to these calls.
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“I think there’s a lot to that. Because you had an election in 2016 where the loser got 3 million more votes than the victor,” Beto O’Rourke said last week.
“Every vote matters and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said recently.
Such a push would likely require a constitutional amendment, making any changes doubtful any time soon.
Pack the Supreme Court
Another idea that has gained post-2016 steam is the call to pack the Supreme Court with more judges.
Having once praised the court for decisions on gay marriage and ObamaCare during the Obama years, Democrats’ view has changed dramatically since President Trump has been able to appoint two justices to the court and swing it to the right.
Now, top 2020 Democrats say, the court is in need of an overhaul. Several Democrats, including O’Rourke and Sens. Warren, Cory Booker, D-N.J., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., have signaled their openness to expanding the number of judges on the court if they enter the White House.
In particular, they have cited Republican decisions to block confirmation hearings for Obama nominee Merrick Garland in 2016 and then confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch after Tump took office, and to lower the Senate-vote threshold to confirm high court nominees.
"First they steal a Supreme Court seat, and then they turn around and change the rules on the filibuster on a Supreme Court seat," Warren said in a recent radio interview. "So when it swings back to us what are we going to do? I think all the options are on the table."
“We are on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court,” Harris told Politico. “We have to take this challenge head on, and everything is on the table to do that.”
Reparations for slavery
In recent weeks, O’Rourke, Harris and Warren, as well as former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, have come out in favor of at least considering reparations for black Americans from slavery.
The proposals have not been detailed, and it’s not clear if that would translate to cash payments. Harris suggested to The Grio that this could include a generic tax credit to families making under $100,000. Warren was prepared to go a step further, though, and told reporters in Manchester, N.H., last month that reparations for Native Americans should be “part of the conversation” as well.
Green New Deal
The Green New Deal was once only discussed on the far-left fringes of the Democratic Party, but now almost all the Democratic front-runners back the proposal being pushed in Congress by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. -- even though senators voted "present" when it came to a test vote on Tuesday.
The ambitious resolution, which calls for “a new national social, industrial and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal,” is cast as an opportunity to tackle systemic injustices toward minority groups, create millions of high-wage jobs and “provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States.”
But the proposal also includes a host of costly and controversial programs, including guaranteed jobs, a push for “net-zero greenhouse gas emissions,” and an undefined pledge of “access to nature.”
Gillibrand, Harris, Warren, as well as Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., all signed onto the resolution.
Less than 10 years after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, Democrats are now arguing for full-blown single-payer, government-controlled health care.
While most 2020 Democrats have not laid out their proposals in detail, both Harris and Sanders have said people would not be able to keep their private plans in their proposal.
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“No,” Sanders told CNN when asked. “What will change in their plans is the color of their card. So, instead of having a Blue Cross/Blue Shield card, instead of having a United Health Insurance card, they're gonna have a Medicare card.”
It marks a stark contrast from former President Barack Obama’s push for ObamaCare -- during which he promised that if an American liked their plan, they could keep it, even though the policy didn't work out that way for everyone.
Lower the voting age
O’Rourke said last Tuesday that he would consider lowering the voting age to 16.
“I’m open to the idea of a younger voting age. ... There’s some merit to it,” he said in New Hampshire.
The idea, which has been backed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would be a dramatic change to the electorate -- and one that would most likely favor Democrats.
So far, the idea has not caught on among many other Democrats, with only Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg backing the push. Booker, Harris and Klobuchar have entertained, but so far not endorsed, such a proposal.
Suspend the death penalty
Both Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Harris have said they would suspend the death penalty at the federal level if elected president.
“The vast majority of cases in the federal death penalty system, I’d have to be suspicious just to start,” Hickenlooper said at a CNN town hall last Wednesday. “I certainly would suspend the death penalty.”
Harris has also made a similar promise. Asked on NPR if she believes there should be a “moratorium” on the death penalty, she said: “Yes I do, I believe that.”
Eliminate the filibuster
The Senate filibuster, requiring 60 votes (and therefore some degree of bipartisanship) to advance measures in the chamber, has been chipped away in recent years by both Democrats and Republicans. No longer are 60 votes required to confirm key nominees.
But Democrats, possibly with an eye on their own agenda that sees virtually no Republican support, are mulling getting rid of the filibuster for legislation.
“I think that that’s something that we should seriously consider,” O’Rourke told reporters on the campaign trail in New Hampshire last week.
“When you talk about changing the filibuster rule I understand that we are heading, right now, we are heading that way,” Booker said in an interview on "Pod Save America." “I’m going to tell you that for me that door is not closed.”
“Everything stays on the table. You keep it all on the table. Don’t take anything off the table,” Warren said when recently asked about scrapping the filibuster.
Social Security for illegal immigrants
Gillibrand, as part of her call for “comprehensive immigration reform,” suggested that she wants to expand Social Security to those in the country illegally.
"First, we need comprehensive immigration reform," she said last week in Iowa. "If you are in this country now you must have the right to pay into Social Security, to pay your taxes, to pay into the local school system and to have a pathway to citizenship. That must happen."
Warren has called for a 2 percent “wealth tax” on Americans with more than $50 million in assets, and an additional 3 percent on those with more than $1 billion.
The call for a wealth tax, apart from a tax on income, marks a shift in policy for Democrats -- although it is in line with Warren’s firebrand rhetoric.
“It would make the ultra-rich pay their fair share & generate nearly $3 trillion over the next 10 years. A lot of rich and powerful people won’t like it – but I don’t work for them,” she said.
O'Rourke last week voiced support for Warren's idea.
Seven-day limit to opioids
In an attempt to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, Gillibrand tweeted last week that she has introduced legislation to limit opioid prescriptions to seven days.
“If we want to end the opioid epidemic, we must work to address the root causes of abuse. That’s why @SenCoryGardner and I introduced legislation to limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to 7 days,” she tweeted. “Because no one needs a month’s supply for a wisdom tooth extraction.”
While aiming to tackle one of the country's most serious health crises, the proposal was widely criticized as overly intrusive.
As candidates embrace calls for a higher minimum wage, health care for all, and other pro-worker policies, they have faced scrutiny about their treatment toward their own campaigns -- but now, some are embracing the unionization of their staffs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., campaign team announced that some of their employees have unionized, touting that this makes them “the first major party presidential campaign in history to have a unionized workforce.”
While Sanders became the first candidate to go ahead with unionization, former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro announced in January that he will pay all campaign workers, including interns, $15 an hour or more. Officials said they would support a union as well if staff chose to organize, according to The San Antonio Current.
Last Tuesday night, O'Rourke said that if campaign workers want to unionize, he would “support it all the way.”
"Absolutely, if those who work on this campaign, and who comprise what I hope will be the largest grassroots effort this nation has ever seen, want to unionize, I support that all the way," he told Fox News when asked if he supports unionization.
Tear down the border wall
Democratic opposition to President Trump’s border wall is nothing new, but in recent months that opposition has accelerated, with candidates suggesting that not only would they oppose the wall -- they might tear it down.
During an interview in O'Rourke's hometown last month, MSNBC host Chris Hayes asked O'Rourke: "If you could, would you take the wall down here -- knock it down?"
"Yes, absolutely," he said, "I'd take the wall down."
"I could look at it and see which part he means and why and if it makes sense, I could support it,” Gillibrand told Fox News the next day.
That has seen opposition from Harris, who when asked about O'Rourke's response, said, "No, I believe that we need border security."
The push to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been cooking in Democratic circles since last year when the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy on prosecuting all illegal border crossers.
Warren, Sanders and Gillibrand have all called to abolish the agency. O’Rourke and Harris, meanwhile, have talked about radically reforming or overhauling ICE, but have shied away from an outright call to abolish the agency.
Universal basic income
Longshot presidential hopeful Andrew Yang is running on the platform of a Universal Basic Income -- which he says would guarantee payments of $1,000 a month to all citizens, “no questions asked,” to provide help for Americans looking for a job, going back to school or taking care of loved ones.
While not going as far as Yang, Booker last year proposed the creation of “opportunity accounts” for children -- accounts that could grow to about $46,000 per child by the time they turn 18, Business Insider reported.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser, Liam Quinn, Alex Pappas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.