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Meet the Press Blog

Harris gets South Carolina grassroots support

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former Richland County councilwoman Bernice Scott and her “Reckoning Crew” of community activists announced Thursday they are backing Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in the state’s presidential primary.

In 2016, the grassroots group of volunteers — largely comprised of African American women — worked to help propel Hillary Clinton to victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., in the state by going door-to-door, speaking to voters in the most rural parts of South Carolina.

Harris trails both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders in recent polling, and the endorsement could help the senator build momentum and secure the votes of African Americans, the largest group of Democratic primary voters in many southern states.

Scott is the grandmother of Jalisa Washington-Price, the Harris campaign’s South Carolina state director, but Scott said she and her “Reckoning Crew” made the decision after a careful process of elimination.

“Jalisa will tell you, ‘Meemaw’s got her own mind,’” Scott told NBC News. “My group is here to serve. And I saw that in her. I saw her ability to make you feel like you’ve known her all her life. And that’s a comfortable feeling.”

Harris has visited South Carolina seven times since launching her campaign—and has held more events in the state than any other 2020 candidate.

This weekend, four of her fellow contenders — Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke — will all make stops in Charleston to highlight their own economic policies specific to the African American community.

Activist Lawrence Lessig was once a presidential candidate, now he's interviewing them

WASHINGTON — Lawrence Lessig has a twinge of regret about not joining the massive field of candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, so he’s doing the next best thing — starting a podcast to interview and cajole them to support his agenda of political reforms.

The prominent Harvard Law School professor and political activist briefly ran for president in 2016, an experience that he describes as both “the worst of times” and “the coolest thing I've ever done.”

He didn't make the Democratic debate stage last time, but thinks he would this year under new Democratic National Committee rules that prioritize small donors. "I kind of regret that in February when they announced the rules, I wasn't in a position to spin it up and try to run," he said during an interview over iced tea in Washington this week.

So instead, he’s using his new podcast to go deep with candidates on campaign finance reform, voting rights, gerrymandering and more, and to push what he calls "POTUS 1” — a play on the name of a similar bill House Democrats’ passed this year called HR1.

Lessig argues a future Democratic president should prioritize political reform before health care, climate change, immigration, or anything else, “because it makes everything else easier.”

The first episode of his podcast, sponsored by his group Equal Citizens, launches this week with an interview with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., whom Lessig praised as “better than I was” for her “democracy dollars” idea to give every American $600 to donate to candidates they support.

He’s not too impressed yet with the details put forward by the rest of the field, including his former Harvard Law colleague Elizabeth Warren, nor does he have much sympathy for the longshot candidates in the race, even though he once was one.

"I look at some of these candidates and I’m wondering why they’re running,” he said, saying he ran to advance a clear set of policy ideas, while some candidates today seem in it for themselves. “It’s like a vanity show.”

Buttigieg calls for 'Douglass Plan' to boost economic prosperity for African Americans

WASHINGTON — Pete Buttigieg is calling for a “new Marshall Plan” to create economic prosperity for African Americans, as he seeks to address his biggest vulnerability in the 2020 race: his struggle appealing to black voters who play a critical role in the Democratic primary. 

Naming it “the Douglass Plan” after abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, Buttigieg is calling for reducing the number of Americans incarcerated by half. He also says he would triple the number of entrepreneurs from underserved areas and particularly entrepreneurs of color within 10 years, which he says would create 3 million jobs and $660 billion in new wealth for black communities. 

Buttigieg also wants to reform credit scoring in the U.S., increase access to credit, expand the number of successful small businesses in black communities and increase the rate of federal contracts that go to minority and women-owned firms from 5 percent to 25 percent. 

“Replacing racist policies with neutral ones will not be enough to deliver equality. We must actively work to reverse these harm,” Buttigieg says in an op-ed laying out the plan in the Charleston Chronicle. Buttigieg will emphasize the plan during a visit this weekend to Charleston, South Carolina, for the Black Economic Alliance forum. 

The plan, which Buttigieg says should rival in scope the Marshall Plan that invested in Europe after WWII, appears to represent his initial attempt at a proposal on reparations for slavery. 

In recent days, Buttigieg has said he would create a commission to figure out the best way to do reparations, noting that he supports the idea of reparations, but not as a cash check. Rather, he supports a program to address long-term structural inequities that linger from the era of slavery. 

Buttigieg is still struggling mightily to attract minorities to his campaign, and particularly in South Carolina, where a recent poll did not show him registering at all among black voters. His rallies and events remain very racially homogeneous, including a foreign policy speech in Bloomington, Indiana, on Tuesday that was attended mostly by white attendees.

Harris proposes executive actions to help Dreamers

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Wednesday released a new proposal to give Dreamers and other immigrants a pathway to citizenship through targeted executive action if elected president. Harris’ plan would break down the barriers Dreamers face in applying for permanent residency status and reinstate and expand DACA.

Harris’ executive actions would strike down obstacles such as the clause in current immigration law that bars Dreamers from applying for a Green Card if they have “accept[ed] unauthorized employment.” Instead, Harris’ Secretary of Homeland Security will grant work status authorization to DACA recipients retroactively. Another executive action would clarify that being brought to the U.S. as a child means Dreamers were not able to keep lawful status “through no fault of [their] own.”

The campaign estimates these executive actions would ease the pathway to citizenship for more than two million Dreamers.

“Every day in the life of a Dreamer who fears deportation is a long day. Dreamers cannot afford to sit around and wait for Congress to get its act together. Their lives are on the line,” Harris said in a statement. “These young people are just as American as I am, and they deserve a president who will fight for them from day one.”

Harris’ proposal would also go beyond DACA and create a deferred action program for the parents of citizens or green-card holders and other law-abiding immigrants with "strong ties to their communities." The program will be administered on a case-by-case basis but military service, time spent as a resident of the U.S. and whether the individual has family members who benefit from deferred action will be considered. 

Vaughn Hillyard

Bullock web ad highlights reason for his late entry into the presidential race

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock Wednesday released a new digital ad highlighting his decision to not enter the race until after passing legislation to re-authorize Medicaid expansion in the state, a move that will likely help cost him a spot on the first debate stage in just two weeks.

Bullock has struggled to meet the criteria set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for the debate, having entered the race just one month ago, on May 14, due to Montana’s legislative session.

“You won’t see Governor Steve Bullock at the first debate, and I’m the reason why,” says Montana resident Madison Johnson in the web ad, which campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said will be targeted at Iowa voters online.

In the ad, Johnson says Bullock’s signature on legislation that re-authorized Medicaid expansion in the state “saved her healthcare.”  Bullock signed the legislation on May 9.

In an interview last week, Bullock told NBC News, “If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people healthcare, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

“I’m sorry Steve got started too late to make the first debate, but I’m asking for your help to get him on the stage this fall,” Johnson says in the ad.

The May 14 entry left him with less than a month to qualify for this month’s debate, which is hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo.

According to rules established by the DNC, candidates can qualify either by finishing with at least 1 percent in three sanctioned polls by different organizations or by the same organization of different geographic areas. They can also qualify through a secondary avenue requiring 65,000 unique donors, but a candidates’ polling average is more important since it serves as a tiebreaker and Bullock has struggled in that area during his campaign's first month. The second debate will follow the same requirements as the first.

Democratic presidential candidates to join striking workers in early nominating states

California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, former Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg will join striking fast-food workers this week as they seek to support efforts to organize labor and raise the minimum wage to $15.

The three will join events organized by Fight for $15 and a Union, the group started by striking fast-food workers in 2012.

Harris will join striking workers in Las Vegas, while O’Rourke and Buttigieg head to Charleston, South Carolina. Both states hold early presidential nominating contests and their campaigns were eager to note their support.

"I have fought with organized labor throughout my career and I'm proud to stand in solidarity with the working women and men fighting for the wages and benefits they deserve here in Nevada,” Harris said in a statement to NBC News.

Buttigieg spokesperson Chris Meagher pointed to a campaign video the candidate made endorsing the movement, as well as the fact the campaign is paying its interns $15 per hour.

And the O’Rourke campaign said the candidate is "proud to stand with South Carolina's workers" and that "we need to confront that inequality today by ensuring that every workplace is free of sexual harassment and violence and that every worker can earn enough to support themselves and their families."

The trio is not the first group of Democratic presidential candidates to hit the picket lines with striking workers — New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former HUD Secretary Julián Castro, and Sen. Bernie Sanders have all done so in recent weeks. And New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called into a strike line. 

Virtually all of the Democratic presidential candidates support a minimum wage hike to $15. But Service Employees International Union International President Mary Kay Henry told NBC that no one candidate has separated themselves from the pack on labor issues in her view because most haven't fleshed out specific plans on how they'll support workers' rights.

Terrence Wise, a fast-food worker and organizer from Kansas City, Mo., said that the effort was an important chance for workers to keep the pressure up on politicians to stay committed to their issues.

“I’ve worked two, three jobs, and I’ve been homeless while I’ve had a job. It doesn’t make sense to live like that in the richest nation on Earth,” he said.

“I don’t think elected leaders on either side of the aisle are there yet, but we have to help them get there.” 

Gillibrand campaign says it hit 65,000 donors after heavy Facebook push

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's, D-N.Y., campaign said Monday that it hit the 65,000 unique donor threshold to help her shore up her spot on this months' debate stage, a mark the campaign reached after spending heavily on Facebook ads this past week. 

Gillibrand's campaign spent more than $200,000 on Facebook ads between June 2 and June 8, according to the platform's "Ad Library."

Many of those ads were explicit appeals asking donors to help her hit the threshold set to qualify for the Democratic National Committee's first round of debates, which will be hosted by NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo on June 26 and June 27. 

Her campaign announced Monday that it hit the unique donor threshold in an email to supporters

Debate participants can also qualify by averaging 1 percent in three sanctioned polls. But by hitting both thresholds, candidates can shore up their positioning in case more than 20 candidates qualify, because the party has said it will prioritize candidates who hit both thresholds. 

In the last seven days, Gillibrand's campaign spent almost twice as much on Facebook advertising as Sen. Cory Boooker, D-N.J., whose campaign spent about $119,000 as the next largest advertiser.

Still,, Gillibrand's total was less than half that of President Trump's campaign, which spent more than $500,000 between its official campaign organization and its joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign spent $110,000 over the same period, followed by Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders' campaign, which spent $102,000. 

New Hampshire takes center stage for candidates this week

MANCHESTER, N.H. — After a weekend of 2020 presidential politics dominated by candidate visits to Iowa, it's New Hampshire's turn to get the attention this week. 

Seven Democratic contenders will make their way to the Granite State, kicking off with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., visiting Monday. On Tuesday, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, will be in the state, followed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday, entrepreneur Andrew Yang on Thursday and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Friday. 

These candidates will make their pitches to New Hampshire voters at events like political forums, house parties, meet-and-greets and fundraisers (there will even be a celebrity appearance from actress Connie Britton as she joins Gillibrand for a fundraiser for young Democrats).

During the Politics & Eggs breakfast Monday morning at Saint Anselm’s Institute of Politics in Manchester, Klobuchar spoke at length about her ideas for the future and specifically how she planned to pay for them — including her plans related to infrastructure, broadband, education, pharmaceutical  prices, healthcare and climate.

She also had criticism for President Trump on policy and for his rhetoric and demeanor. She also took five audience questions on tariffs, social  security, climate, mental health, and tax reform.

At a Town Hall with Energysource employees in Manchester, Moulton spoke about his service in Iraq and how it applies directly to the kind of leadership called for as Commander in Chief. He took questions from attendees on subjects ranging from trade to how he tries to stand out in crowded Democratic field and Russia’s influence in American politics.  

All of the candidates visiting this week except Warren and Klobuchar were at 1% or below in the most recent New Hampshire poll, which was taken over a month ago. 

Democratic National Committee launches college fellowship program to train organizers for 2020

WASHINGTON —The Democratic National Committee is launching the first round of its "Organizing Corps," a multi-million dollar program it says will ultimately train 1,000 college juniors as organizers for the party's eventual nominee in key swing states. 

There are 300 students in the first group across Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—all states Democrats lost in 2016 where they say they can win in 2020. After a week-long training session in Atlanta, which starts Monday, the students will embed with their respective state parties for another seven weeks. 

The DNC's plan is to train 1,000 student organizers before the party chooses its presidential nominee, growing the crop of potential young talent within the party for the eventual nominee to call upon when staffing up. 

"It could be a while until we know who the nominee is. Trying to ramp up from a staff of X to often 50X is often very difficult," DNC Chairman Tom Perez told NBC News. 

"Having a universe of 1,000 people ready to go — that is lightning in a bottle." 

More than three-quarters of the first wave of students are students of color, a reality that reflects the dual charge facing Democrats as they look to recover from an upset in 2016, when Census data shows black and Hispanic voting rates fell from 2012. 

That cycle, Perez admitted, Democrats "weren't building those authentic relationships with voters." 

Rachel Haltom-Irwin, Organizing Corps' executive director, highlighted that diversity, arguing that it will help organizers be more effective, especially since most of them either go to school or live in the states in which they're working. 

Perez argued that the party's success in Wisconsin in 2018, flipping the governor's mansion and holding Sen. Tammy Baldwin's seat, was a function of an emphasis on learning the lessons from 2016 and focusing more on homegrown organizing that reflected communities better. 

The fight for minority voters is hardly taking place in a vacuum — President Trump's allies have pointed to low minority unemployment rates and the White House's role in the criminal justice reform bill that passed last year as proof points of their ability to connect with black voters. 

Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, recently told RealClearPolitics that their own data show educating black voters on the White House's support for the recent, bipartisan criminal justice reform law significantly increased their support for Trump during 1,200 recent door-knocks. 

Perez panned team Trump's attempts to woo minority voters, accusing the "far right" of using a "classic voter suppression tactic" when promoting the push to have minorities "#WalkAway" from the Democratic Party. 

"They will try to obfuscate, they will try to peddle fake news," Perez said of Republicans. 

"We want to make sure they hear directly from us who is fighting for them, who has their back, and who has the knife in their back." 

2020 hopefuls juggle their day jobs with their White House hopes

More than a million people are expected to line the streets of Manhattan on Sunday for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, but the mayor of New York City won’t be there.

Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor and a 2020 presidential hopeful, is skipping the famous New York City event to campaign in Iowa.

The mayor’s decision to miss the parade in favor of the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame dinner hasn’t gone over well with some of his hometown critics, but he defended his decision during a weekly public radio interview with Brian Lehrer on WNYC.

“Every presidential candidate is going to be amongst the Democrats and it was important to be there. But my respect, my commitment to the Puerto Rican community is very, very well known in the community and it will continue deeply,” he said on the program. “When you're running for President of the United States, this is always a challenge to try and balance the schedules.”

The rigorous demands of a presidential campaign can be hard to juggle with a day job. Sixteen of the current Democratic hopefuls hold public office, and several have been forced to miss campaign events to attend to their elected positions.

In May, Sen. Kamala Harris nixed a trip to Iowa because of expected votes on a disaster funding bill that included relief for her home state of California. In January, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand rescheduled her campaign’s first news conference to accommodate a vote on Russian sanctions.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has said his commitments at the governor’s mansion will likely keep him from qualifying for the first Democratic presidential debate. Bullock chose not to enter 2020 race until the close of his state’s legislature in mid-May, leaving little time to meet the qualifications necessary to earn a spot on the debate stage.

“I’ve been penalized for making sure people have health care, for making sure that even in a rural Republican state that we can get good things done,” Bullock said in an interview with NBC News on Thursday.  

“If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people health care, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

Vaughn Hillyard contributed reporting. 

Vaughn Hillyard

Bullock says he's being 'penalized' out of debate for doing his job

WASHINGTON — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Thursday that he should be allowed to participate in the first Democratic presidential debate later this month despite the possibility he won’t qualify for the event. 

Bullock did not enter the race until the close of his state’s legislature in mid-May. He repeatedly argued throughout the winter and early spring that he needed to focus on shepherding through the Republican legislature’s reauthorization of Medicaid expansion in the state. 

But the May 14 entry left him with less than a month to qualify for this month’s debate, which is hosted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. And a methodological clarification communicated to the media by the Democratic National Committee Thursday made it clear he’s on the outside looking in ahead of Wednesday's deadline. 

“I’ve been penalized for making sure people have healthcare, for making sure that even in a rural Republican state that we can get good things done,” Bullock said in an interview with NBC News. 

“If I had to decide between campaigning for 100,000 donors or getting 100,000 people healthcare, that’s the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

According to rules established by the DNC, candidates can qualify either by finishing with at least 1 percent in three sanctioned polls by different organizations or by the same organization of different geographic areas. 

They can also qualify through a secondary avenue requiring 65,000 unique donors, but a candidates’ polling average is more important since it serves as a tiebreaker. 

But Bullock has struggled in the polls during his campaign's first month. 

His campaign had hoped a poll from the Washington Post and ABC News, in which he registered 1 percent, would count because the news outlets are on the DNC's list of approved polling outfits. 

But the poll asked an open-ended question about preference for the Democratic presidential nomination, which solicited responses including politicians like President Trump and former first lady Michelle Obama.

The DNC clarified to reporters Thursday that the Washington Post/ABC poll would not count toward qualifying for the debate, and DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told NBC News that the DNC “notified the Bullock team in March” of that decision.  

Without that poll, Bullock has until Wednesday to hit 1 percent in one more poll and qualify. But even then, he wouldn’t be a lock because the party is capping the number of candidates at 20, and prioritizing the final spots based on polling average. 

Bullock argued that the decision to limit debate participants shouldn't be made so far out from when voting begins. 

When asked by NBC News if he will stay in the race if he is not given a spot on the debate stage, Bullock responded, “Absolutely.”

John James announces bid to take on Gary Peters in Michigan Senate race

Republicans got the Senate recruit they wanted for Michigan in 2020. 

Republican John James, an African-American Army veteran and businessman, is officially in the race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Gary Peters.

He was a newcomer last cycle when he ran a stronger-than-expected race against Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, losing 46 percent to 52 percent. Republicans haven’t won a Senate seat in Michigan since 1994.

James said in his announcement: “I think that we are heading in the wrong direction as a country and I do not see the energetic, experienced and passionate leadership representing Michigan  willing or able to unite our state toward a better and brighter future. I believe I can help lead Michigan toward a brighter, better future, and that’s why I am running for US Senate.”

The Cook Political Report rates this seat as “Likely D” for now, but notes that the race could get competitive.  And Republicans hope that a strong statewide run by James could help get the president’s 2020 campaign over the finish line  again in the swing state

O'Rourke, Buttigieg to meet with Stacey Abrams

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidates Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg will both meet privately with former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams this week, three people with knowledge of the meetings tell  NBC News.

The meetings will happen on the sidelines of the Democratic National Committee's African American Leadership Summit in Atlanta. 

O'Rourke’s meeting is in addition to a town hall he's doing Wednesday night co-hosted by the independent voting reform group Abrams founded, the New Georgia Project Action Fund. The former Texas congressman has just released a comprehensive voting rights reform plan.

Buttigieg has made expanding his so-far-limited appeal to black voters his top priority for the last several weeks. The South Bend, Ind. mayor hired several African Americans for top campaign roles and has backed creating a commission to study the right way to do reparations.

Buttigieg and O'Rourke will both speak Thursday at the DNC event, along with Joe Biden and Cory Booker. 

The meetings come after Abrams' unsuccessful for governor last year in Georgia put a spotlight on concerns about voter suppression, particularly as it relates to black voters. She has not ruled out a bid for president herself in 2020 after that campaign raised her national profile within the party. 

CNN earlier reported Abrams' meetings with the Democrats.

Biden draws harsh criticism on support for Hyde Amendment

WASHINGTON — Pro-abortion rights groups and fellow Democratic candidates have been quick to respond to NBC News reporting that former Vice President Joe Biden continues to support the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion services with limited exceptions. 

"There’s no political or ideological excuse for Joe Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment, which translates into discrimination against poor women and women of color plain and simple," Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement released Wednesday. 

EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said in a separate statement that Biden's stance is "unacceptable" and noted that "Democrats made repealing the Hyde Amendment part of our 2016 platform."

Planned Parenthood Action Fund Executive Director Kelley Robinson argued in her statement that "to support the Hyde Amendment is to block people — particularly women of color and women with low incomes — from accessing safe, legal abortion." 

All three groups have a prominent voice within the Democratic party, making their criticism of Biden notable.

Democratic candidates are also racing to highlight their own support for the Hyde Amendment's repeal. 

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told reporters in a gaggle in Indiana that she will "lead the fight" to overturn the amendment. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker told NBC News that "things like the Hyde Amendment are attacks on women." And more than a half-dozen candidates tweeted about repealing the amendment. 

Outside of Biden, no other Democratic presidential candidate in the race has said they support keeping the law and several have made repealing Hyde a centerpiece of their abortion-rights policies.

Sens. Warren, Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. as well as Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., have co-sponsored legislation to do just that. 

The decades-old Hyde Amendment only allows federal funds to be spent on abortion services in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.

Along with confirming Biden's support of the Hyde Amendment, Biden press secretary Jamal Brown told NBC News that the former Vice President has a lengthy record of defending a abortion rights and "firmly believes that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should not be overturned." Brown added that Biden “has fought vigorously to protect a woman's right to choose and against measures criminalizing abortion" throughout his long political career. 

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Booker unveils housing affordability plan

WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker Wednesday unveiled an affordable housing plan that would provide a refundable tax credit to those whose rents run more than 30 percent of their income.  

Booker's campaign says his housing plan would help 57 million people, many of those whose rent costs more than half of their income. 

“Making sure all Americans have the right to good housing is very personal to me. I’m determined to tear down the barriers that stand in the way of every American being able to do for their families what my parents did for mine," Booker said in a statement. 

Booker would pay for his plan by repealing the latest estate tax cuts and putting those rates back to 2009 levels, which taxed income over $3.5 million per year at a 45 percent rate. Currently, the tax applies to any income over $5.3 million per year which is taxed at a 40 percent rate. 

Booker's core plan is to help people pay their rents, but combined with his baby bonds would help make housing more accessible.

Booker says his baby bonds plan, which would give every child born in the United States $1,000 at birth and an amount up to $2,000 based on family income on every birthday until 18, would create a a fund that could be used for a down payment for a first-time home buyer. 

Booker often invokes his family's trials with buying a home when he was a child on the campaign trail. He said that his family was discriminated against and had difficulty buying a home when they tried to move to a middle class New Jersey neighborhood. 

Booker would also strengthen rules that make it harder to discriminate against those previously incarcerated and push for the passage of the Equality Act to outline discrimination against people based on gender and sexual orientation. He would also create a $40 billion housing fund to refurbish and build low-income housing, provide right to counsel for those facing eviction and invest in affordable housing in rural areas and Indian County. 

O'Rourke unveils voting rights reforms aiming for 35 million new voters by 2024

CONCORD, N.H. — Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke aims to once again smash turnout records — not in his own campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination — but by the 2024 election, according to a new voting rights plan proposed Wednesday. 

O’Rourke’s voting rights and democracy reform plan, laid out in a campaign memo, reflects a number of the same priorities as the House-passed HR1 package passed earlier this year, and is designed to increase ballot access, turnout, and accountability from elected officials. 

To increase participation in elections, O’Rourke calls for nationwide reforms, including automatic and same-day voter registration, expanding early voting to two weeks and making Election Day a national holiday. 

O’Rourke has made increasing voter turnout central to both his political identity and campaign strategy — discussing the issue regularly on the stump in both his Texas senate race, and in the presidential contest. His campaign estimates his plan could lead to 50 million new registered voters nationwide, and 35 million additional votes cast in the 2024 election. 

Some planks of the O’Rourke plan would require massive voter mobilization in their own right. He calls for a constitutional amendment establishing term limits for federal offices: 12 years in the house and senate, and 18 years for Supreme Court justices.

O’Rourke’s plan would also focus on expelling big money from elections. It calls for banning all PAC contributions to campaigns, and providing a federal match for individual donations up to $500, and making such gifts tax deductible. 

Warren unveils $2 trillion 'green manufacturing' plan

DETROIT, Mich. — Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled the first of several plans that fall under the umbrella of “economic patriotism” — policies aimed at creating and promoting jobs, workers, and industries — proposing a whopping $2 trillion investment over ten years in green manufacturing, research, and trade.

That investment will result in more than one million new jobs over the same time period, Warren says, a claim bolstered by an independent analysis from Moody’s.

Her latest policy push comes ahead of two stops in Michigan Tuesday where Warren hopes to showcase her commitment to a Green New Deal while also making an economic argument in the nation’s industrial heartland.

Warren’s green manufacturing plan has three main pillars:

  1. Green Apollo Program: $400 billion in funding over ten years for clean energy research and development. Within this program, Warren would create a National Institute of Clean Energy, modeled after the National Institutes of Health. To ensure the wealth is spread around the country, Warren says money would be sent to land grand universities, to rural areas, and “areas that have seen the worst job losses in recent years.”
  2. Green Marshall Plan: This would create a new federal office “dedicated to selling America-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy technology abroad” and include a $100 billion commitment to helping countries purchase and use that tech. Warren also advocates for the U.S. to end all support for international oil and gas projects through the Ex-Im Bank, as well as leverage American power in the World Bank to diverting investments from fossil fuel projects to clean energy projects.
  3. Green Industrial Mobilization: A $1.5 trillion federal commitment over 10 years to buy U.S.-made clean, renewable, emission-free products both for export, and use at the federal, state, and local levels. Why $1.5 trillion? Warren points out that at least that much is projected in spending on defense procurement over the next 10 years. “We should spend at least that much on purchasing American-made clean energy technology,” she writes.

Warren's plan also includes a labor standards/unionizing component as it relates to all manufactured products in the U.S. and all companies that receive federal contracts:

  • all employees earn at least $15/hour;
  • employees are guaranteed at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave;
  • fair scheduling practices;
  • and collective bargaining rights for all employees.  

Warren plans to pay for the plan with her previously released Real Corporate Profits Tax, as well as eliminating subsidies to oil and gas companies, and closing corporate tax loopholes.

Biden calls for clean energy 'revolution' in new climate plan

BERLIN, N.H. — Former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday is calling for a “revolution” in clean energy in the United States, rolling out his plan Tuesday to combat climate change, get the country to net-zero emissions by 2050 and making a link between the environment, the economy and social justice. 

The plan, which references what it calls the “crucial framework” of the Green New Deal, is Biden's most comprehensive policy proposal yet — and a push-back of sorts on reports last month that his campaign was searching for a “middle ground” climate plan. 

The plan centers around a $1.7 trillion dollar federal investment in clean energy, paid for by rolling back the Trump tax cuts (a popular piggy bank for Democratic proposals) in the hopes of leveraging a total of $5 billion dollars in public and private investment — the same total target as fellow presidential contender Beto O’Rourke’s plan, which was introduced in April. 

Biden says his administration would use a mix of executive actions and legislation to address the climate crisis. On day one, the Biden administration would require “aggressive” methane pollution limits on oil and gas production, make changes to the federal procurement system to move towards clean energy and zero-emissions vehicles, and set new efficiency standards across the economy. 

Among the legislative goals of the Biden plan is to set a net-zero emissions goal of 2050, with an unspecified enforcement mechanism put in place by the end of a first term. The plan also calls for $400 billion in research spending to address issues like improving the efficiency of air travel and carbon sequestration as well as to determine the best role for nuclear power in a clean energy economy. 

The Biden plan also links infrastructure spending with addressing climate change. It calls for the deployment of 500,000 additional public charging stations for electric vehicles, building new, less-sprawling, efficient urban housing and storm-and-disaster resistant roads and bridges. 

A long-time proponent, and daily rider, of Amtrak, the Biden plan also calls for significant investments in making the U.S. rail system the best in the world.

Biden’s climate plan also calls for the U.S. to rejoin the Paris climate accords, and pledges that as a candidate he will take no money from oil, gas or coal corporations or executives, aligning him with much of the rest of the Democratic field.

Dick Gephardt turns the tables on Buttigieg in 'Hardball' town hall

FRESNO, Calif. — Sixteen years after a baby-faced Pete Buttigieg confronted a Democratic presidential contender on the national stage, the tables were turned on him on Monday with a surprise question from former Rep. Dick Gephardt at an MSNBC town hall.

Buttigieg was in college during the 2004 presidential campaign when he took Gephardt, who was seeking the Democratic nomination that year, to task for being the only candidate not to attend a youth-focused Rock the Vote forum. That televised event almost two decades ago was also hosted by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who questioned Buttigieg on Monday.

“Do you think young people’s votes matter in the campaign,” Buttigieg pointedly asked Gephardt in archival footage from 2004 that was played at the town hall on Monday.

Gephardt pushed back at the time, saying he indeed cared very much about the youth vote but that he had a prior commitment in the all-important state of Iowa that conflicted with the Rock the Vote forum.

His advice to young Buttigieg? “Get involved in public life. Give back to your country. Don’t just take from it.”

Gephardt did not win the nomination or go on to become president. But on Monday, he got the chance to flip the script, appearing remotely by video at Buttigieg’s "Hardball" town hall.

“I get asked all the time by people all over the country, ‘What about the future of our democracy of America? My answer is very simple: I’ve always been optimistic about America because the people are good and they’re good citizens,’” Gephardt said to Buttigieg. “You’re out there meeting thousands of them. Am I still right?”

Not missing a beat, Buttigieg responded, “Uh, yea!”

“People just want to know that they’re going to be ok. But people can have good and bad things called out from within us. We’re all capable of good and bad things. Just ask somebody you love,” Buttigieg said.”

But, he added, people and communities become worse when they don’t feel safe, an observation that appeared aimed at the current Oval Office inhabitant.

“People have been made less secure,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said. “And it makes it possible for a cynical leader to draw out the worst of us.”

CORRECTION (June 4, 2019, 7:50 a.m. ET): A previous version of this post misstated the amount of time that has passed between Buttigieg's questioning of Gephardt and now.  It is 16 years, not 18 years.

Delaney: 'I don't think we should have a donor standard' for presidential debates

WASHINGTON — Former Maryland Democratic Rep. John Delaney on Monday criticized the Democratic Party's decision to include a donor threshold as a metric to qualify for the presidential debates, arguing it leaves voters shut out of the process. 

Delaney, who has lagged far behind his rivals in individual fundraising, told MSNBC's "MTP Daily" that while he supports the party's decision to institute a polling threshold, he's against a donor threshold.

"I don't think we should have a donor standard, I absolutely don't think the Democratic Party should be about money. Fifty percent of the American people cant afford basic necessities, I'm running for those people," he said. 

Democratic presidential candidates have two ways to get into the first two debates (hosted by NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo in June, and CNN in July): hit one percent in three qualifying polls or raise money from 65,000 unique donors (as well as 200 unique donors across 20 states). 

The Democratic National Committee recently announced it would raise those qualifications for its next debate in September. Then, donors will have to meet both criteria — donations from at least 130,000 individual donors (including 400 in 20 states) and hit 2 percent in four qualifying polls. 

Delaney has hit the polling threshold for the first two debates, but while his fundraising numbers are not public, his campaign has not announced (like others have) that he's hit that 65,000 donor threshold. He's largely self-funded his campaign.