WASHINGTON, Iowa — Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke has begun to flesh out some of his policy ideas as he makes his way across Iowa, backing away Friday from his support for full single-payer health care and declining to say whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.
"I'm no longer sure that’s the fastest way for us to get there," O'Rourke told reporters outside a campaign stop here.
The Texas Democrat once endorsed Medicare for All, which in its purest form would replace every American's health insurance plan with one run by the government, in effect ending private health insurance in the United States.
O'Rourke said Friday he's open to a full single-payer program in the long-run, but that he sees a more immediate solution in proposals that would allow Americans to choose to buy into Medicare or keep their current plans.
"It allows people to keep employer-based insurance, many of whom want to do that," he said. "Over time, I hope Medicare has the investment, the buy-in necessary, becomes attractive enough that people choose to leave employer-based insurance instead of being forced to join Medicare."
While O’Rourke said his presidential campaign will continue the grassroots, populist theme of his Senate run, which broke fundraising records despite rejecting all PAC money, he will need to carve out a policy space for himself in a crowded Democratic field. Fans have likened him to former President Barack Obama, and his policy positions might cover more centrist ground than some of his Democratic rivals on several issues.
Here’s what we know about where O’Rourke stands on other issues.
During his Senate campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, O'Rourke said he would vote to move forward with impeachment hearings against Trump.
Asked again about the issue Friday, O'Rourke said it's up to Congress to decide and that the 2020 presidential election is the best way to remove Trump from office. But he hasn't changed his opinion on the president's guilt.
“If you're asking me, has the president committed impeachable offenses? Yes. Period," O'Rourke said.
2. Immigration/border security
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O’Rourke, who switches fluidly between English and Spanish, represented the border city of El Paso, and has supported comprehensive immigration reform. He also has said he believes undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, or Dreamers, deserve a path to citizenship. O'Rourke has sharply denounced Trump’s border wall and anti-immigration policies, railing against the administration’s family separations and attempts to reject asylum seekers at the border.
He said the border barrier in El Paso should be taken down.
O'Rourke told CBS This Morning on Friday that he favors raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations, though he declined to name numbers.
"I think corporations should be asked to pay a greater share into the success of this country," he said. "The wealthiest at a time of historic income inequality should be asked to pay a greater share. I don't know what the levels should be at, but I know that the tax cuts from nearly two years ago of $2 trillion at a time that we had $21 trillion in debt, at a moment of extraordinary need across the country, was one of the most irresponsible things that the country has ever done."
4. Climate change/environment
O’Rourke, who has a 95 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, would reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. As a Senate candidate, he touted incentives for new and renewable energy sources, and previously has called for investment in clean energy and opposed the Keystone XL pipeline.
He said after announcing his run for president on Thursday that he supports the idea of a Green New Deal, but without delving into specifics.
It's a question every 2020 Democrat has been asked, thanks to the presence in the race of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a self-described democratic socialist.
O'Rourke, who owned a small web design business, calls himself a capitalist but makes it clear he sees major flaws with the system.
"Now having said that, it is clearly an imperfect, unfair, unjust and racist capitalist economy," O'Rourke said at a campaign event in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, on Friday.
6. Criminal justice
As a Senate candidate, O’Rourke, who has said he was arrested as a young man for forcible entry and for drunk driving, called for eliminating private, for-profit prisons, legalizing marijuana and expunging the records of those imprisoned for its possession. He also backed ending mandatory minimum sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses and instead treating addiction as a public health concern. O'Rourke backed eliminating the cash bail system, which he says punishes the poor disproportionately and creating "meaningful reentry" programs to reduce recidivism.
O’Rourke, who was a member of the fiscally moderate New Democrat Coalition, says the country needs to use the power of the market to address major challenges. But he also supports some regulations to protect consumers and stronger antitrust laws to break up monopolies.
He has opposed Trump's tariffs, saying they lead to tit-for-tat treatment that makes U.S. products more expensive and less competitive and ultimately impacting jobs, while also saying that he supports fairer trade deals. O'Rourke has rated highly with labor unions, calling for beefed-up worker retraining programs and a $15 minimum wage.
8. Gun control
He has called for a ban on certain semiautomatic assault rifles, supported universal background checks and opposed concealed carry reciprocity, which would allow those permitted to carry a concealed firearm in one state to do so in others.
O’Rourke has opposed school vouchers and called for increasing aid to public schools in low-income areas, according to The Washington Post. He also has supported focusing less on standardized testing and giving teachers more autonomy.