7 Things to Watch For in the Democratic Platform Battle

A 15-member panel is debating the Democratic Party's official positions.

ByRYAN STRUYK and NOAH FITZGEREL
June 09, 2016, 3:31 PM
PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard held April 14, 2016.
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., right, and Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Presidential Primary Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard held April 14, 2016.
Seth Wenig/AP Photo

— -- Supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are beginning negotiations over the official positions of the Democratic Party — and the debate is on.

A panel of 15 members — six people chosen by Clinton, five from Sanders and four from party leadership — met this week in Washington to kick off discussions, spearheaded by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Clinton and Sanders have been at odds during the course of the campaign, but many are now calling on the candidates and their backers to unite around a common agenda.

Here are seven issues to watch for potential clashes:

1. Big Banks and Wall Street

Sanders has made pointed attacks against Clinton on the trail for taking money for speeches from Wall Street banks — but the clashes may not be winding down. “I don’t know how you can take millions of dollars from powerful special interests and then ... take on those special interests,” Sanders said in California last week. Cornel West, a Sanders-backed panel member, continued the case on Wednesday. “There’s not an equal application of rule of law to Wall Street as opposed to Main Street,” he told former Attorney General Eric Holder.

2. Israel-Palestine

The Sanders campaign drew attention after naming several individuals to the Democratic National Committee’s drafting committee whose views on the Israel-Palestine conflict may challenge the party’s current position. The Sanders camp’s panel members are more critical of military action and emphasize support for the Palestinians. DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that, in keeping with the party’s 2012 platform, President Barack Obama has made clear that the United States “will continue to stand strong with our stalwart allies, including Israel, and ensure her security.”

3. Boosting the Minimum Wage

Sanders has made a national $15 per hour minimum wage a hallmark of his campaign, but it is up for debate whether that number will make its way into the official position. “That will ultimately raise wages for the bottom third of workers,” Lawrence Mishel from the Economic Policy Institute told the committee. But Clinton backs a $12 national minimum wage, and the current platform leaves out a specific target.

4. Expanding Social Security

Both Sanders and Clinton have argued that wealthy Americans should contribute more to Social Security than they currently do. But the campaigns disagree on who should benefit from an expanded program. Sanders has argued that everyone should receive increased benefits, and Clinton has argued that increased benefits should be focused on specific groups. Nancy Altman, a co-director of Strengthen Social Security, a coalition of national and state organizations, credited Sanders for unifying the party behind Social Security expansion, advocating for a plank backing increased benefits “across the board.”

5. Deportations

The main Democratic divide on immigration isn’t between Clinton and Sanders: It’s between the candidates and the White House. Obama has been criticized by members of his own party, including a notable defection by Clinton, for carrying out raids to deport undocumented immigrants during his tenure. “The violence that we’ve heard from the Republican nominee all lead to the conclusion that this party has an opportunity to lead, set a high ground,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, one of the few Sanders backers in Congress, told the panel.

6. Trade: The Trans-Pacific Partnership

Factions of the Democratic Party continue to grapple over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade deal among 12 Pacific Rim countries that is championed by the Obama administration but that Bernie Sanders has called “disastrous.” West told AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka that he would like to see a statement in the 2016 platform that “leans” toward the populist position, opposing the agreement. Warren Gunnels, the policy director for the Sanders campaign and another panel member, said Democrats “need to kill” the TPP.

7. Washington, D.C.: The 51st State?

Pressure is building for Democrats to officially back Washington, D.C., as the 51st state. “Our nearly 700,000 residents live in the shadow of the nation’s Capitol without a vote in Congress,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told the panel Wednesday. Sanders and Clinton endorsed D.C. statehood during their campaigns. The current platform calls for “full and equal congressional rights” but stops short of advocating for statehood.

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