Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. | Matt Rourke/AP Photo
Updated: 05/13/2020 09:43 AM EDT
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday named the co-chairs and members of their joint task forces meant to shore up Democratic Party unity ahead of November’s general election.
The announcement follows through on a pledge the two men made last month — when Sanders, the runner-up in the Democratic presidential primary, endorsed Biden, the party’s presumptive nominee — to establish working groups to advise the Biden campaign on six key policy areas: climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, education, health care, and immigration.
The task forces’ membership consists of a stable of prominent Democratic leaders and public policy experts, but its most notable appointee is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive New York congresswoman and superstar of the party’s left wing who backed Sanders during the primary contest and has evinced skepticism toward Biden’s more moderate ideology.
Since Sanders’ exit from the White House race, however, Ocasio-Cortez has all but formally endorsed Biden while still pressuring him to pursue a distinctly liberal policy agenda. “There are very real, tangible areas where Democrats even fell short perhaps during the Obama administration that I think I would like for us to have a plan to improve,” she told POLITICO last month.
Ocasio-Cortez, who has championed The Green New Deal legislative package, was tapped Wednesday as one of the two co-chairs of the Biden-Sanders climate change task force, along with John Kerry, the former secretary of state and longtime Massachusetts senator who was an early Biden supporter.
The Republican National Committee immediately seized upon Ocasio-Cortez’s involvement to blast the task forces and Biden, contending in a statement Wednesday he had “reminded the American people that there isn’t a far left policy he is not hellbent on advancing.”
Apart from Ocasio-Cortez and Kerry, the groups’ co-chairs include Chiraag Bains, director of legal strategies for the liberal think tank Demos; Reps. Karen Bass and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Bobby Scott of Virginia, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Marcia Fudge of Ohio; Dr. Heather Gautney, a sociology professor and former Senate staffer; Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center; former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; and union activist Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
Biden and Sanders also named Carmel Martin of Biden for President and Analilia Mejia of Friends of Bernie Sanders as their respective campaign representatives “to coordinate and support the work” of the task forces.
The incorporation of Ocasio-Cortez and other high-profile progressives on the task forces in leadership capacities is certain to help assuage concerns from left-leaning Democrats that Biden will not heed their counsel when mounting his general election campaign against President Donald Trump. The groups are certainly not stocked with the party yes-men and shrinking violets that some liberals feared would fill out the advisory panels.
In a news release, the Biden campaign said the task forces “will meet in advance of the Democratic National Convention to make recommendations to the DNC Platform Committee” and to Biden directly. “Building upon the work of the Democratic campaigns to date, the ultimate goal of the Unity Task Forces is to develop the most successful possible agenda for Democrats in 2020,” the campaign said.
Biden said in a statement that a “united party is key to defeating” the president in six months, as well as “moving our country forward through an unprecedented crisis.” The task forces “will be essential to identifying ways to build on our progress and not simply turn the clock back to a time before Donald Trump, but transform our country,” he said.
“In the midst of the unprecedented economic and pandemic crises we face, the Democratic Party must think big, act boldly, and fight to change the direction of this country,” Sanders said in his statement, adding: “I commend Joe Biden for working together with my campaign to assemble a group of leading thinkers and activists who can and will unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction.”
Holly Otterbein contributed to this report.