As we go through these primary states, do voters really do the work to determine the backgrounds of the candidates? Likely no, so below is a little cheat sheet that voters must consider for some of these candidates during their time in the Senate. It is voter’s duty to know.
Last May, we published an article highlighting differences between the 2020 democratic candidates based on their legislative records in 2017 and 2018. We also published several articles highlighting some of the key legislation that candidates have introduced more recently to give an understanding of their current policy concerns. As we finally reach the 2020 democratic primaries, it’s a good time to revisit what GovTrack data can tell us about the remaining viable candidates who are currently serving in or have served in the US Senate.
Bernie Sanders has secured his position as the most progressive candidate by championing significant reform for popular issues. He has introduced a bill in this session of Congress for almost all of his major talking points, such as his Medicare for All Act, Raise the Wage Act, and College for All Act. The titles of these bills are more or less self-explanatory, which is fitting of Sanders style. Sanders introduces relatively few bills compared to other Senators, but the ones he does introduce tend to propose sweeping changes.
While Sanders legislative focus tends to be on health and the economy, he’s also touched on other key progressive issues. He introduced two environmental bills: the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, which would set energy efficiency standards for all public housing among other things, and the Prevent Future American Sickness Act, which in a break from Sanders’ loftier policy goals would designate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as hazardous substances. He also introduced the No War Against Iran Act in response to increased tensions earlier this year.
Only two of the 27 bills Sanders introduced this session were supported by a Republican, and he’s only signed on to 19 Republican bills.
Elizabeth Warren has a clear focus on financial and economic policy. She introduced several bills to regulate large corporations, like her Accountable Capitalism Act, which would set responsibilities for United States corporations and enforce them with a new federal office, or her Ending Too Big to Jail Act intended to crack down on financial crime.
While not all of the bills she introduces are specific to that focus, most of them are presented from a financial perspective. For example, two of the major educational reforms Warren proposes, the Student Loan Debt Relief Act and the Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act, are centered around the affordability of preschool and higher education. Affordability is a key issue to Warren, appearing in the titles of two of her recent bills, the Affordable Safe Drinking Water Act and the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, which show off her approach to environmental and health policy respectively.
Warren and Sanders have both built their campaigns on progressive reforms meant to relieve stress for low-income Americans. However, looking at the legislative records we can find some contrast. While Sanders rarely ever trades cosponsorship with Republicans, Warren is much more likely to have a Republican or two sign on to her bills. In the previous session of Congress over half the bills Warren introduced had a Republican cosponsor and in this session almost a third were the same. She also has cosponsored 98 Republican bills this session.
One legislative issue stands out for Amy Klobuchar more so than for the other candidates: campaigns and elections. She has introduced 15 bills such as her Stopping Harmful Interference for a Lasting Democracy Act, which would require Federal campaigns report any foreign assistance offered or given, her Redistricting Reform Act, intended to combat partisan gerrymandering, and her Same Day Registration Act, which would allow voter registration on the same day of an election.
But with 81 bills introduced this session, Klobuchar has covered a wide range of topics. She has introduced environmental bills such as the Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy Act, which would provide grants and technology assistance to rural electric cooperatives, and finance bills such as the Monopolization Deterrence Act, which would allow monetary penalties against corporations that engage in monopolization offenses.
Klobuchar introduced more bills than the other senators running for President. She tends to focus less on lofty goals like Sanders’ Medicare for All or Warren’s Universal Child Care, opting to legislate for smaller policy adjustments rather than large scale reform. She also is much more likely to get Republican cosponsors. 51 of the 81 bills she introduced this session had at least one Republican cosponsor.
Although Joe Biden didn’t introduce any bills in this session of Congress, we can look into his record from his last years as a senator. From 2007 to 2009 Biden focused on criminal justice and sentencing reform. He introduced bills such as the Bail Bond Fairness Act which would have required that bail bonds only be forfeited if the defendant fails to appear in court, the Justice Integrity Act, which would have created a program to prevent racial bias in law enforcement and to improve public confidence in the police, and the the Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act, which would have eliminated mandatory minimums for possession of crack or powder cocaine, among other things. He took an interest in preventing drug abuse through bills like the Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act and Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act.
Biden also had bills on clean energy and college affordability. His College Affordability and Creating Chances for Educational Success for Students Act would have assisted college students with tax credits and Pell grants, and his International Clean Development Technology Fund Act would have appropriated $2 billion for developing and implementing technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the globally.
65 of the 89 bills Biden introduced in his last session of Congress had Republican cosponsors. Biden signed on to 71 bills introduced by Republicans.