Democrats have approved a draft party platform strongly influenced by the liberal agenda of Sen. Bernie Sanders, but his campaign pledged Saturday to continue fighting on several policy fronts ahead of the party’s nominating convention next month.
The draft policy rubric approved early Saturday is evidence of the sway Sanders holds after a bruising primary that technically has not ended. The language would move the Democratic Party to the left on issues ranging from wages to banking reform to climate change, and represents several concessions by presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton to her persistent primary rival.
Fourteen out of 15 members of a party drafting committee, including four chosen by Sanders, approved the draft document. Cornel West, an academic and activist named to the panel by Sanders, abstained. The draft document now goes to the larger platform committee for a vote next month.
Sanders plans to ask for further changes to the platform then, most likely prolonging the awkward status quo: He has lost but has not yet conceded defeat or endorsed Clinton. He said Friday he would endorse Clinton when he hears her say “the things that need to be said.”
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Sanders policy director Warren Gunnels said of whether the campaign would keep trying to win changes when the platform committee meets in Orlando early next month.
Sanders’s continued objection to platform language on the proposed Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership also sets up a confrontation with the White House, which lobbied to keep language out of the platform that would put Democrats on record against congressional consideration of their own president’s trade package. Although both Sanders and Clinton oppose the deal, known as TPP, Clinton allies on the drafting committee voted against that language.
The Sanders campaign will seek help from labor and environmental groups that also oppose TPP, including many that have already endorsed Clinton, in trying to get the Democratic Party to say that Congress should not take up the TPP during the lame-duck session or the new congressional session next year.
The draft approved after several weeks of hearings would have Democrats take steps toward the federal breakup of some large Wall Street banks and advocates a new version of the Glass-Steagall Wall Street regulation law. It advocates a $15-an-hour minimum wage but does not go as far as Sanders wanted in making explicit that the figure should represent a universal mandated minimum wage.
It also goes on record opposing the death penalty, which Clinton has said she supports in some instances.
But Sanders lost a lengthy battle over expansion of Medicare into a universal single-payer health-care system, one of the issues he is expected to continue pressing. Sanders allies were also unsuccessful in pressing for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and a carbon tax to address the effects of climate change.
His allies also lost an attempt to add new language that would elevate Palestinian sovereignty as a policy objective for the United States and explicitly label Israeli military control of the West Bank an occupation.
Clinton policy adviser Maya Harris said the platform “represents the most ambitious and progressive platform our party has ever seen, and reflects the issues Hillary Clinton has championed throughout this campaign, from raising wages and creating more good-paying jobs to fixing our broken immigration system, reforming our criminal justice system, and protecting women’s reproductive health and rights.”
That does not mean it goes far enough, said Gunnels. He praised what he called a spirit of collaboration under panel chairman Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) while saying that from Sanders’s perspective the Democratic Party platform should stand apart from outside influences such as White House lobbying.
“There was pressure, we had all been told, coming from the president for the last several months. He had a much different position than Secretary Clinton or Sen. Sanders,” in favoring the broad trade pact, Gunnels said.
“That shouldn’t have mattered at all. This isn’t about embarassing the president. It’s about not outsourcing more jobs to Vietnam where workers are paid 65 cents an hour.”
Clinton had supported the TPP as Obama’s first-term secretary of state but reversed her position as a candidate.
“I don’t want to do anything as he ends his term to undercut the president of the United States,” Cummings said during the negotiation Friday. He also opposes the trade deal.
West replied that the responsibilities of citizenship should transcend loyalty to the president.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said in a statement Saturday that he was “disappointed” to see his trade amendment go down but praised the committee for including “meaningful and historic positions” on issues like Social Security and Native American rights.
The party platform is a broad statement of principles that the presidential nominee will run on, but it is not binding. The document is the subject of intense negotiation as an emblem of party priorities, and in this case a test of strength for a liberal challenger who pulled a mainstream Democrat leftward.
The drafting committee kept working through the evening Friday night rather than return for a second day of negotiations on Saturday, as planned. The session, live-streamed by the Democratic National Committee, was cordial overall while not disguising tension between the two camps and a deep sense of frustration on the part of Sanders allies.
Reacting to the committee’s progress Friday, before the draft was approved, Sanders pledged to ensure his views are reflected even if that means contesting party orthodoxy on the floor of the convention.
The meeting had been underway Friday in St. Louis for scarcely more than an hour when Cummings called a multiple-hour recess to resolve disagreements.
Six of the panel members were named by Clinton and five by Sanders. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chair of the Democratic National Committee, named the remaining four. Wasserman Schultz, a frequent target of anger and accusations of bias from Sanders backers, attended part of Friday’s session.
The makeup of the committee was itself a concession to Sanders; standard protocol calls for the committee’s chair to appoint all of the members, in consultation with the White House and the winning candidate.
The platform includes 12 broad topics, including the economy, climate change, health care and national security. Two prior meetings of the drafting committee were geared toward discussion and public testimony.
Isaac Stanley-Becker and David Weigel contributed to this report.