Update, January 13, 2019: Senator Cory Booker has exited the 2020 presidential race after failing to qualify for a second Democratic primary debate. In a video posted to Twitter announcing the end of his campaign, Booker said, “It is my faith in us, my faith in us together as a nation, that we share common pain and common problems that can only be solved with a common purpose and a sense of common cause.”
Original post: Cory Booker is the latest senator to throw his name into the pool of Democrats vying for that 2020 presidential nominee spot. The former “super mayor” of Newark (he once saved a woman from a burning building), Booker went to Stanford and Yale Law School before starting a nonprofit that provided legal services to low-income families.
He was later elected to the Newark City Council, ran for mayor in 2006, and in 2013, he became the first African American senator from New Jersey; he’s held the position ever since. Booker recently announced his run at the start of Black History Month with a video where he says, “I believe that we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind.”
Below, ELLE.com breaks down where Booker stands on the nine issues voters cared about most going into the midterm elections.
Booker has supported improving upon the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) in the past, and in 2017, he co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All bill. He told PBS affiliate, NJTV, “You should not be punished because you are working class or poor and be denied health care. I think health care should be a right to all.”
He’s also in favor of legalizing marijuana at the federal level, and while he represents a “Big Pharma” state, Booker stopped accepting donations from pharmaceutical companies after receiving some criticism. He told NPR in 2017, “I understand that pharmaceutical companies are making innovations that are lifesaving. But something has become terribly twisted if you can go to other countries who can buy drugs that are made and innovated on the United States and find them for dramatically less costs.”
Booker introduced the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act in 2018, a bill that would create a three-year pilot program wherein the Department of Labor would choose 15 areas across the country and provide every adult in that area a job that pays at least $15/hour.
According to Vox, Booker said, “The federal jobs guarantee is an idea that demands to be taken seriously. Creating an employment guarantee would give all Americans a shot at a day’s work and, by introducing competition into the labor market, raise wages and improve benefits for all workers.” (Learn more about it, here.)
In 2017, Booker, along with other Democrats, said they would not vote for a spending bill that did not include protection for DREAMers. He also attended President Trump’s first State of the Union with Elizabeth Vilchis, an immigrant who received protections through DACA.
In June 2018, Booker helped introduce the Keep Families Together Act, which was meant to stop families from being separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. He also traveled to the border himself to, as he wrote for Vox, “witness firsthand the human impact of the crisis brought about by President Trump’s cruel immigration policies.”
How Women Are Treated in the U.S.
Booker is an outspoken feminist who supports the Equal Rights Amendment and co-sponsored a bill that would allow women to fight against pay discrimination in the workplace. He’s also supported a bill that addresses how federal prisons treat women and their families.
During an interview with Quartz, where he discussed equality and the #MeToo movement, he said, “While most men don’t have first-hand experience with gender-based discrimination, we can still be powerful allies for advancing women’s rights. We need to do a better job of listening to women and standing up for what’s right, even when it’s not popular or comfortable.”
After a number of states passed or considered extreme abortion laws this year, Booker came forward with his plan for protecting reproductive rights. He has spoken about his intentions, if elected, to codify Roe v. Wade into law, end the Hyde Amendment (which bars the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions), appoint judges that will protect reproductive rights, restore funding for family planning, and create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom to advance abortion access and reproductive health care.
In a Medium post, Booker wrote that starting on his first day as president, he would “take executive action to respond to these relentless efforts to erode Americans’ rights to control their own bodies.” He also stated that he would work to ensure that birth control is covered by the Affordable Care Act, and he would work to end the “global gag rule,” which prevents foreign organizations that receive U.S. funding for global health programming from promoting abortions.
Back in May, Booker told MSNBC, “It’s important for men to lead on this issue with women because this is an assault on human rights, an assault on the basic fundamental ideal that you can control your own body.”
The Senator supports gun safety legislation, including expanding background checks, preventing those on terrorist watch lists from purchasing weapons, and banning high-capacity magazines, bump stocks, and assault weapons.
After the Parkland shooting, Booker gave a speech on the Senate floor, telling his colleagues, “To not act is to be complicit in the continued violence.”
Booker also published a plan to end the gun violence epidemic on his Medium page, writing that his plan would “keep guns out of the wrong hands,” “hold gun manufacturers accountable,” and “bright the fight to the NRA.” He then expanded on these points, writing that he would institute federal gun licensing, create regulations for gun manufacturing, close loopholes that allow some gun sales to be made without a background check, and close the “Boyfriend Loophole” which fails to restrict abusive dating partners from purchasing a firearm. He would also like to dedicate federal funding to researching gun violence and gun safety.
Last year, Booker introduced the Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity (HOME) Act, intended to address the affordable housing crisis. The act would give tax credits to renters, create saving incentives, and, according to Curbed, create “zoning policies to increase the affordable housing stock.” Curbed reports that renters earning 80 percent of the area median income and spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing would be eligible for the rental tax credit, though renters could also put 20 percent of the tax credit into a savings program. (Learn more about the bill, and how it would also work to provide more affordable housing, here.)
According to PBS, Booker serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been critical of some of the Trump administration’s foreign policies, including in Saudi Arabia and in relation to the Yemeni humanitarian crisis. The site reports Booker has also voted against arms sales to Saudi Arabia and criticized U.S. airstrikes in Syria.
Booker has also been critical of Trump’s travel ban, telling CNN, “This stems from a person that started their campaign talking about Mexicans and Muslims in a way that just disappoints me… We need to reclaim our values… we’re a good nation, we’re good people, and we should be setting a standard on this planet of what humanity should be about.”
Income and Wealth Distribution
Like many of his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls, Booker supports a federal $15/hour minimum wage and ending the gender pay gap. He also introduced the American Opportunity Accounts Act in October 2018, which would essentially create a savings account for American children. According to Vox, the bill would give each child a $1,000 savings account when born. Then, until the child turns 18, the government would add up to $2,000 a year to the account, depending on the family’s income, with low-income families receiving more money. When the children turn 18, they can access the account, but the money can only be used for specific things, like education, retirement, or buying a home. (Learn more about it, here.)
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation
Booker voted “no” on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and was tough on the judge during his hearings. According to NPR, Booker tried to question Kavanaugh about an email he had sent regarding racial profiling, but since the memo was given to Senators and not made public, Republicans said it was unfair to question Kavanaugh about a document he didn’t have. At this point, Booker decided he would make the memo public, saying, “I’m going to release the email about racial profiling, and I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate.”
Some saw Booker’s decision as a way to bolster his 2020 prospects, with Republican Sen. John Cornyn saying to Booker, “Running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate.” NPR reports that Republicans also said the documents had in fact been approved for the public before Booker revealed them, though it’s unclear if Booker was aware.
Booker also questioned Kavanaugh about his views on voting rights and whether he believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was being used as a political operative. At one point, he even walked out of the Senate Judiciary Committee:
And one more thing…
One other major tenant of Booker’s platform is his work concerning criminal justice reform. In his video announcing his run, he spoke about creating an America “where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins.” Booker also helped pass the bipartisan First Step Act in 2018; CNBC reports that the bill is designed to reduce recidivism and “offers some protections against severe mandatory minimum sentences.” He’s also worked on bills that would ban solitary confinement for juveniles and create more transparency in law enforcement.
On his Medium page, Booker has written that, if elected, he intends to initiate a clemency process for more than 17,000 nonviolent drug offenders who “have been handed unjust sentences by their government.” He writes that under his Restoring Justice Initiative, three classes of individuals serving federal prison sentences would be considered for clemency: people serving sentences for marijuana-related sentences, people serving sentences that would have been reduced under the First Step Act (which reduced the minimum sentences for certain drug offenses), and people serving “unjust sentences” because of the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses.