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The Biden Campaign Has an Unlikely Ally Working on Climate Policy: AOC

“I’m working with Bernie and his people," Biden said on Tuesday, "and we’ve made some changes and listened to the Bernie supporters."

by Paul Blest
May 13 2020, 2:13pm

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Secretary of State John Kerry are co-chairing a climate policy panel, as part of a unity effort between the campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders to bring the two candidates’ coalitions together before November.

The Wednesday morning announcement came after Biden let slip on Tuesday that Ocasio-Cortez was working with the Biden campaign to develop its plans for combating climate change.

“We’ve set up joint committees together to deal with how we would deal with everything from the [corona]virus all the way down to education, the criminal justice system, the new Green Deal, etc.,” Biden told Las Vegas television station KLAS. “I’m working with Bernie and his people and we’ve made some changes and listened to the Bernie supporters. And for example, we have, you know, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez. She is on one of the panels as well.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s office later clarified that Ocasio-Cortez’s role would be “Senator Sanders' representative on a committee the Vice President has convened to assist with the development of climate policy,” in a statement to the New York Daily News. (Ocasio-Cortez’s office did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.)

“She made the decision with members of the Climate Justice community — and she will be fully accountable to them and the larger advocacy community during this process,” the statement continued. “She believes the movement will only be successful if we continue to apply pressure both inside and outside the system. This is just one element of the broader fight for just policies."

The climate justice group Sunrise Movement’s co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, whose organization supported Sanders in the primary, was also named to Ocasio-Cortez and Kerry’s committee.

In addition to climate policy, the campaigns have set up joint committees on criminal justice reform, the economy, education, healthcare, and immigration. Other prominent progressives joining the effort include Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the lead sponsor of the House Medicare for All bill, who’s co-chairing the healthcare committee with former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, and Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA labor union, who’s co-chairing the economic committee with Rep. Karen Bass.

The task forces “will meet in advance of the Democratic National Convention to make recommendations to the DNC Platform Committee and to Vice President Biden directly,” the campaigns said in a joint statement.

“To create an agenda that the working class of this country desperately needs, and moves us toward a more just society, we must solicit the best ideas,” Sanders said in the statement. “I commend Joe Biden for working together with my campaign to assemble a group of leading thinkers and activists who can and will unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction."

Ocasio-Cortez has thus far stopped short of endorsing Biden, although she has said she would vote for him in November and encouraged other Sanders supporters to do the same. Last month, she told the New York Times that she had never spoken to the former vice president, though it’s unclear if that’s changed.

The first-term lawmaker has emerged as a leader on climate issues, introducing the Green New Deal in February 2019 along with Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. The program earned endorsements from several candidates during the primary including Sanders and both Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, two names frequently mentioned as potential Biden running mates.

Cover: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. speaks during a news conference, Friday, May 1, 2020, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

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climate change
Bernie Sanders
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