Former Vice President Joe Biden took a substantial step to the left Thursday on two key campaign issues.
All but officially the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee in light of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ surprise Wednesday primary departure, Biden started in early with overtures to the self-professed democratic socialist’s most passionate followers.
According to a policy adoption statement published in Medium, the Biden camp apparently was won over by Sanders’ stalwart support for a revolutionary restructuring of the U.S. economic and health care systems throughout the campaign cycle — and was ready to make inroads.
Biden, long seen as a more moderate, establishment figure in the large and deeply progressive 2020 Democratic primary field, announced his support for both a national student loan forgiveness plan and an expansion of Medicare eligibility. He couched the move as a response to the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus shutdown.
“As the next step in building on the progressive vision for the country that I have laid out across the course of my campaign,” Biden wrote, “today I’m announcing my intention to fight for two new policies that I believe will not only help people right now when they may need the help most, but will also help people find more secure footing in the long term once we have emerged from this crisis.
“The first is lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60, and the second is forgiving student debt for low-income and middle class people who have attended public colleges and universities,” the former vice president said.
We have to do more to ease the economic burden on working people. So today, I’m adopting two new policies to help deliver relief. As president, I will:
– Lower Medicare eligibility to age 60
– Forgive student debt for low-income and middle class families https://t.co/wtMnhJdCaR
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 9, 2020
Under the plan, Medicare would still be optional for eligible Americans but would be become available at age 60 rather than age 65.
More radical Medicare policies floated by other candidates throughout the 2020 primary season — policies that would abolish the private health care industry or make Medicare available to all Americans — were not on the table.
On the issue of student loans, Biden was also unwilling to outright adopt the “cancel all debt” rhetoric of his former opponents, suggesting his plan would pay off the student debt of any American making less than $125,000 each year who had attended a public university or community college.
Further details were slim Thursday but would be released shortly, according to the statement.
What mattered, Biden suggested, was that the two “critical steps” could and would be taken to relieve economic pressure on the middle and lower class under his administration — something the former vice president’s supporters could in large part thank Sanders base for.
“Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas, and I’m proud to adopt them as part of my campaign,” Biden wrote.
Thursday’s major shift with regard to student debt and Medicare was not the Biden campaign’s first attempt to make inroads with Sanders’ supporters, however.
Following a campaign-reviving surge on Super Tuesday and sweeping March 10 victories in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington, Biden and his campaign communications director, Kate Bedingfield, went very public with their attempts to forge ahead in crafting a Democratic coalition to defeat incumbent President Donald Trump, Politico reported.
“Our message is, we’re building a movement to defeat Trump and we would love to have you,” Bedingfield told the outlet. “I hope they would come on board. I think we’re building a big inclusive campaign.”
“We have had an incredible amount of unity across the party — some tremendous endorsements from other candidates who have been in the race, their supporters have found a home with Biden,” she said. “Certainly if Sanders voters are looking for a home, I think they have a home here too.”
Biden echoed those sentiments on March 18, pulling ahead of Sanders by more than 300 delegates the previous day with wins in Arizona, Florida and Illinois, according to RealClearPolitics.
BIDEN: “Senator Sanders & his supporters have brought a remarkable passion & tenacity … Together they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country. So let me say, especially to young voters who have been inspired by [him]: I hear you. I know what’s at stake.” pic.twitter.com/Ubh09AXq7B
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 18, 2020
“Senator Sanders and his supporters have brought a remarkable passion and tenacity,” Biden said in his victory speech. “Together they have shifted the fundamental conversation in this country.”
“Let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you. I know what is at stake and I know what we have to do,” he added.
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