In July, Harris unveiled her 2020 health care proposal in a Medium post titled, “My Plan for Medicare for All.” The plan calls for the expansion of the current Medicare system while allowing “private insurers to offer Medicare plans as a part of this system that adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits.” Harris’ plan sets the U.S. on track to adopt a Medicare-for-All-style system in 10 years (a timeframe that has drawn criticism). Even at the end of this 10-year transition period, however, the private insurance industry would not be eliminated. “This isn’t about pursuing an ideology,” she wrote in the post announcing the plan. “It’s about delivering for the American people.”
The plans puts to rest months of confusion as to whether Harris, who co-sponsored Bernie Sanders’ 2017 Medicare-for-All bill, supports the elimination of the private insurance industry. During a CNN town hall in January, Harris said “let’s eliminate all of that,” ostensibly in reference to private insurance. In May, she said the comment was actually in reference to all of the red tape in the health care system, and that she does indeed support some private insurance to supplement a government plan. She appeared to reverse course during the first Democratic debates in June when she was one of only two candidates onstage (the other being Bernie Sanders) to raise their hand when asked whether they supported the elimination of the private insurance industry. But the next day she said on Morning Joe that she misheard the question from moderator Lester Holt, clarifying once again that she does support some forms of private supplemental insurance.
It’s now clear that, unlike the author of the bill she supported in 2017, Harris does indeed want to retain the private insurance industry.
Closing the Wealth Gap
Though some progressives have proposed taxing the ultra-wealthy, Harris wants to focus on offering relief for the lower and middle classes. She’s unveiled a nearly $3 trillion plan that would provide a tax credit of $3,000 for single Americans making up to $30,000 annually and $6,000 for married couples making up to $60,000. “Americans are working harder than ever, but stagnant wages mean they can’t keep up with cost-of-living increases,” she said when she unveiled the plan in the fall of 2018. “We should put money back into the pockets of American families.”
Not surprisingly, Harris isn’t a huge fan of Trump’s 2017 tax bill, which favored corporations and wealthy Americans to a disproportionate degree. In May, she called for a full repeal of the bill during a campaign stop in Michigan. “Get rid of the whole thing,” she said.
Closing the Gender Gap
Harris has released what her website describes as the “most aggressive equal pay proposal in history.” The plan calls for companies to obtain “Equal Pay Certification,” which involves proving through various means that they are not giving preferential treatment to men over women in regard to pay, promotions, and more. Companies that do not obtain an Equal Pay Certification “will face a fine for every day they discriminate against their workers.” The larger the wage gap, the larger the fine. The plan would also involve overhauling anti-discrimination laws.
The Climate Crisis
Harris has a strong record on climate action — including sponsoring a bill that would give grants to coastal communities to prepare for sea-level rise and, when she was California’s attorney general, investigating ExxonMobil for its reported lies about the risks of climate change. She is one of a handful of candidates to co-sponsor the Green New Deal, the ambitious, multifaceted plan introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) seeking to bring the United States to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. “Climate change is an existential threat to all of us, and we have got to deal with the reality of it,” Harris said in January.
Criminal Justice Reform
Harris’ record as prosecutor, district attorney, and the attorney general of California, a position she held from 2011-2017, has come under intense scrutiny as she has rolled out her presidential campaign. Though she did embrace many progressive measures as San Francisco’s DA and then as the state’s AG, she also started an anti-truancy program aimed at punishing parents whose children missed school, tried to prevent the release of prisoners despite an overcrowding problem, and supported the death penalty.
Harris has taken a more progressive stance since announcing her run for the White House. In March she called for a federal moratorium on executions, calling them “immoral, discriminatory, ineffective, and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars.” A month later, she expressed “regret” for the anti-truancy program she instituted as DA. At a She The People forum later in April, Harris said she would “absolutely” pardon those convicted of drug-related crimes. “We have to have the courage to recognize that there are a lot of folks who have been incarcerated who should not have been incarcerated and are still in prison because they were convicted under draconian laws that have incarcerated them,” she said.
In April, Harris said that if Congress does not enact meaningful gun legislation within her first 100 days in office, she would take executive action to bring about several gun control measures. “We need reasonable gun safety laws in this country, starting with universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapon ban,” she said at a CNN town hall event, “but they have failed to have the courage to act.”
The executive actions would require background checks of anyone buying guns from a dealer who sells more than five guns per year, impose regulations on gun manufacturers and close the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows some domestic abusers to purchase guns so long as they were not married to the victim.
In April, Harris reintroduced to the Senate her Rent Relief Act, a bill aimed at combating rising rent costs by offering a refundable tax credit to Americans making less than $100,000 a year who spending at least 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities.
Harris wasn’t done there. While speaking at the Essence Festival in July, she unveiled plans for a $100 billion program to help Americans buy homes. The plan is aimed at “put[ting] homeownership within the reach” for people of color, and would provide down-payment and closing-cost grants of up to $25,000 for low- to moderate-income families and individuals. Harris estimates the program would provide “at least 4 million families/individuals living in federally-supported or renting housing in these historically red-lined communities with down payment and closing cost assistance.”
Days after rolling out her housing plan at the Essence Festival, Harris announced that she was introducing a bill along with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would reform eviction and screening processes so that those with criminal records would access to affordable housing. “Too many people come out of the criminal justice system only to face additional barriers to transitioning back into their community,” Harris tweeted.
The Fair Chance at Housing Act of 2019, as the bill is dubbed, would replace “one-strike” policies that permit eviction after a criminal incident with a review process, prevent families from being evicted if a guest commits and infraction, and more. “By requiring a higher standard of evidence and a more holistic review process, we are taking a significant step toward giving Americans a fair chance to succeed,” Harris added.
Harris has criticized Trump’s approach to foreign policy. “America’s position in the world has never been weaker,” she said during her campaign kickoff event. “When democratic values are under attack around the globe, when authoritarianism is on the march, when nuclear proliferation is on the rise, when we have foreign powers infecting the White House like malware.”
The senator has come under scrutiny from the more progressive wing of the party for her cozy relationship with Israel, and her failure to publicly condemn the nation’s human rights abuses against Palestinians. In March, Harris reinforced her relationship with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), tweeting a picture of herself meeting with the organization’s California leaders.
In April, Harris wrote on Medium that she was co-sponsoring the College For All Act, which eliminates tuition and fees for public colleges and universities for 80 percent of Americans (those earning less than $125,000 per year).
In July, she tweeted that she’ll “establish a student loan debt forgiveness program for Pell Grant recipients who start a business that operates for three years in disadvantaged communities.” The tweeted prompted widespread criticism for its narrow focus. A day later, Harris thanked people for their “feedback” and tried to “clarify confusion” about the proposal, stressing that she’ll also help close the opportunity gap through $12 billion in direct capital investments, along with other measures detailed on her website.
Harris has said we should “re-examine” the role of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), suggesting that it could be time to scrap the agency. She has been fiercely critical of Trump’s family separation policy at the border, and a vocal supporter of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, protecting undocumented residents who were brought to the country when they were young, who are also known as Dreamers.
Harris has been criticized, however, for supporting a policy that turned over arrested undocumented youth to ICE when she was the San Francisco district attorney. She has since said this was an “unintended consequence” of the 2008 policy and that she “did not support that consequence of that policy.” This has been disputed.
In February, Harris called for the federal legalization of marijuana. “I think it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy,” she said on New York radio show The Breakfast Club. During the same appearance, she said she smoked a joint in college at Howard University. “And I did inhale,” she said.
In July, she introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act along with House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler. “Times have changed — marijuana should not be a crime,” she said about the bill aimed at decriminalizing marijuana on a federal level. “We need to start regulating marijuana, and expunge marijuana convictions from the records of millions of Americans so they can get on with their lives. As marijuana becomes legal across the country, we must make sure everyone — especially communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs — has a real opportunity to participate in this growing industry.”
In May, Harris unveiled a plan to institute what she calls the Reproductive Rights Act, which would prevent states “with a history of violating Roe v. Wade” from enacting abortion-restricting laws without first clearing the legislation with the Justice Department.
In June, she spoke out against the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortion except in extreme cases such as rape and incest. “No woman’s access to reproductive health care should be based on how much money she has,” she tweeted. “We must repeal the Hyde Amendment.”
Abolishing the Electoral College
In March, Harris said on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that she is “open to the discussion” surrounding the abolition of the Electoral College. “There’s no question that the popular vote has been diminished in terms of making the final decision about who’s the president of the United States and we need to deal with that.”
Packing the Supreme Court
Though she has not advocated for a particular position, Harris told Politico in March that she is open to the idea of adding justices to the Supreme Court. “We are on the verge of a crisis of confidence in the Supreme Court,” she said. “We have to take this challenge head on, and everything is on the table to do that.”
Harris has called for the need to “update and reinvigorate” the Voting Rights Act, and tweeted the need for legislation to expand early voting, modernize voting systems and curb the effect of discriminatory voting laws. Asked in April whether she supports allowing incarcerated Americans to vote, the former prosecutor called the issue “complex” and said she’d think about it.
Like many candidates, Harris has said that the idea of reparations needs to be considered. In March, she spoke to NPR about the generational effects of slavery — including how African Americans have higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure — suggesting reparations could come in the form of mental health treatment. “We need to study the effects of generations of discrimination and institutional racism and determine what can be done, in terms of intervention, to correct course,” she said.
Harris said during a CNN town hall event in January that she “absolutely” supports a nationwide paid parental-leave policy. “Even more than that,” she added, “I support … a national policy around affordable childcare. I support what we need to do around universal pre-K. I support what we need to do around having a public education system that benefits our children and not vilifying public school teachers.”