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How Clinton and Sanders Backers Are Trying to Come Together on Party Platform

A Democratic panel is launching deliberations on the party's positions.

ByABC News
June 8, 2016, 5:23 PM
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders at the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, April 14, 2016 in New York.
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders at the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Duggal Greenhouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, April 14, 2016 in New York.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

— -- Democratic officials in Washington D.C. are huddling to begin the difficult work of bringing the party together, launching into a reconciliation process less than 24 hours after Bernie Sanders vowed to continue his campaign despite Clinton’s new status as the presumptive nominee.

A panel of 15 party leaders and policy experts —- six chosen by the Clinton campaign, five from the Sanders campaign and four from party leadership -– has tried to woo Sanders supporters by scheduling multiple forums for discussion about the party’s platform, which Sanders backers are trying to push to the left over the coming weeks.

Sanders has made clear he will push a progressive platform at the convention, regardless of his candidacy’s fate. The party's platform, a list of issue positions that make up the official stance of the Democratic Party, will be finalized at the party's convention in Philadelphia this July.

The head of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, acknowledged these negotiations as a “difficult task,” but was still confident the party would unite. “Arriving at a consensus will no doubt be a difficult task, but I am confident that the process will be a success,” she said.

But the atmosphere here showed leaders are anxious about the possibility of disruption. A sign outside the venue banned signs and noisemakers. “When we disagree…please try to do it without being disagreeable,” Wasserman-Schultz told the room.

"I know many people here are passionate and have strong opinions or we wouldn’t be on this committee,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, who is chairing the panel. "Let us conduct this process with decorum and respect for each other and those who are taking time to speak.” Cummings also asked members and witnesses to refrain from making endorsements for any candidates.

Some top Sanders supporters have already begun vouching for coming together. Congressman Raul Grijalva, a top Sanders backer and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told ABC News that Sanders should get behind Secretary Clinton.

“I’m calling for unity, yeah,” he said. “But I think that the best way to beat Trump and to win back the Senate and close the gap in the House of Representatives and win down line with offices across the country is to have a unified party."

He wouldn’t go so far as to call on Sanders to drop out, calling it a “harsh term,” but said he and Sanders' few supporters on Capitol Hill are “waiting to hear” and “prepare to support that next step, whatever that is.”

Although Wasserman-Schultz pushed for a “fair, open and inclusive process,” but that didn’t stop Rep. Luis Gutiérrez — a Clinton campaign pick for the committee — from taking a jab at the chairwoman.

“I don't know if you would have chosen me but the only way I got here is you let other people choose,” he said.

More than a dozen people testified before the panel today on issues like gun violence, race relations and entitlement and welfare reform.

DC Planned Parenthood board member, Caroline Stuart-Freas, attended to make sure their issues were heard in the Platform Committee.

“My hope is that in a forum like this we’ll all come together and agree,” Stuart-Freas told ABC News. “I’m not here to disrupt anything. We’re just here as a presence.”