Ocasio-Cortez among top Dems promoting Biden-Sanders unity

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden and the last rival he bested to become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders, on Wednesday announced the members of joint task forces their campaigns will use to promote party unity by hammering out consensus on six top policy issues.

FILE – In this March 8, 2020, file photo Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., speaks at a campaign rally for then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

They include New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will provide input on combating climate change and potentially become a key conduit between strong progressives who supported Sanders and backers of the more centrist Biden.

Each committee has eight members and will be focused on health care, immigration, education, criminal justice reform, climate change and the economy, which has taken a sharp downturn amid shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden and Sanders differed throughout the primary on a number of issues, particularly whether a government-run system should replace private health insurance. Biden has continued to resist Sanders’s “Medicare for All” plan and has instead promoted a public option that would operate alongside private coverage.

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The former vice president has taken steps to embrace some policies favored by the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party, aware that he will need those voters to turn out for him against President Donald Trump. That includes embracing proposals backed by Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren to expand health coverage eligibility through Medicare, cancel student debt for millions of Americans and overhaul the nation’s system for individuals to declare bankruptcy.

“A united party is key to defeating Donald Trump this November and moving our country forward through an unprecedented crisis,” Biden said in a statement. “The work of 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.”

Sanders, a senator from Vermont, endorsed Biden within a week of leaving the race in April — unlike in 2016, when he waited until just before the party’s convention to formally back Hillary Clinton. He originally urged supporters to keep voting for him in upcoming primaries delayed by the coronavirus outbreak so that he would be able to influence the policy platform unveiled during the Democratic National Convention — an event already delayed until August because of the pandemic.