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Democrats Meet Virtually To Approve Platform That Builds Off Biden-Sanders Effort

Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chair, speaks during an event in February in Charlotte, N.C.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chair, speaks during an event in February in Charlotte, N.C.

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

Democrats met remotely Monday afternoon to approve a lengthy policy platform that seeks to balance the interests of the Democratic Party's more moderate and liberal factions.

The virtual meeting came three weeks ahead of what will be one of the strangest party conventions in U.S. history: No delegates and few Democratic dignitaries will travel to Milwaukee to nominate former Vice President Joe Biden to be the party's standard-bearer. Instead, the convention will be held mostly remotely, with only Biden and a few other speakers appearing from Milwaukee.

The draft platform, released last week, draws heavily from a report issued this month by joint task forces organized by Biden and his onetime campaign rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. It tries to bridge the gap between Sanders' progressive politics and Biden's more moderate approach to governing.

Dozens of Democratic members considered amendments to the plan Monday.

They approved amended language opposing President Trump's deployment of federal agents to quell protests in Portland and other cities, as well as planks affirming support for unions, and for expanding paid sick leave. By Monday evening, the Democratic National Committee had not shared the exact language of the amendments.

The draft party document released last week endorses universal health care and makes it clear that low- or no-cost coverage for every American is the party's eventual goal. Rather than backing a single mandatory government-run health insurance program, however, it calls for adding a public option to the existing Affordable Care Act.

The platform does nod to "Medicare for All," the policy backed by Sanders, saying: "We are proud our party welcomes advocates who want to build on and strengthen the Affordable Care Act and those who support a Medicare for All approach."

The platform also sets aggressive goals for combating climate change, including making all American power plants carbon neutral by 2035 and adding 500 million solar panels and 60,000 wind turbines to the country's electricity grid within the next five years.

It also calls for a $15 minimum wage, mandatory paid family leave, more federal gun control, broad changes to federal sentencing guidelines and drug laws, and many other changes that most Democratic candidates for Congress and the White House have supported for years.

Platform committee co-chair Denis McDonough, who served as former President Barack Obama's chief of staff, called it the "boldest Democratic platform in American history."

Still, anticipating virtual floor fights and frustration from progressive activists who want the party to set an even more aggressive policy course, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez said at the top of the committee meeting that "we should never confuse unity with unanimity, nor should we confuse debate with division."

Indeed, as the platform committee meeting went on, several proposed amendments were rejected, including an attempt to shift platform language to fully support Medicare for all, and another to more forcefully condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

Like most Zoom meetings in 2020, the Democrats' committee session had its buffering blips, unintentional mute moments and cross-talk.

But the Democrats' attempt to vote virtually was still more than Republicans tried: Trump and Republican Party leaders have decided to adopt the party's 2016 platform in full at their convention next month, rather than craft new language.

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Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.