Biden Taps AOC to Chair Campaign's Climate Change Task Force

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) / Getty Images
May 13, 2020

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden chose far-left congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.) to lead "unity task forces" to craft the party's general election platform.

Biden announced the appointments Wednesday alongside former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who dropped out of the race in April and endorsed Biden. The two campaigns worked together to create joint task forces dealing with the party's stances on six issues: climate change, immigration, health care, education, criminal justice, and the economy.

Ocasio-Cortez will chair the climate change task force along with former secretary of state John Kerry, who was the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. Jayapal, also a staunch progressive, will run the health care task force.

"Building upon the work of the Democratic campaigns to date, the ultimate goal of the Unity Task Forces is to develop the most successful possible agenda for Democrats in 2020," the Biden campaign said in a statement.

Sanders praised Biden's cooperation, saying the task forces will "unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction."

Shortly after the announcement, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about her decision to co-chair the task force. She thanked Sanders for the nomination but did not name Biden.

Both Jayapal and Ocasio-Cortez are outspoken proponents of massive expansions of government spending through policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

Ocasio-Cortez was a key backer of Sanders's presidential campaign and has been critical of Biden's outreach to progressive voters. A month before her appointment to Biden's "unity task forces," Ocasio-Cortez said her ideological differences with Biden meant that the two would not even be in the same party if they were in a different country. She called his concessions to the left flank, including lowering the age for Medicare eligibility, "almost insulting."

"They floated this olive branch to the progressive left of lowering the Medicare age to 60," she said. "And it's almost insulting. I think Hillary [Clinton] was looking at policies that lowered it to 50. So we're talking about a ‘progressive concession' that is 10 years worse than what the nominee had in 2016."

Ocasio-Cortez also said Biden's nomination would "depress turnout" and argued that Biden was not a "pragmatic choice."

Jayapal said the "suffering" experienced by Americans from the coronavirus crisis offers "leverage" for Democrats in Congress to accomplish their legislative goals. She called for "boldness" in responding to the pandemic.

The joint task forces are the latest in a series of concessions Biden has made to far-left voters after he surged past Sanders in the primary. He also called for canceling student debt and apologized for the deportations of illegal immigrants that occurred when he was vice president.