Former Vice President Joe Biden is endorsing two signature ideas offered by his Democratic primary rivals ― Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who remains in the race, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who dropped out earlier this month.
The move from Biden, which comes just hours before Sunday night’s highly anticipated one-on-one Democratic debate with Sanders, is viewed as a gesture to progressives as he hopes to unify the Democratic Party ahead of the November election, in which Biden will likely be the nominee facing President Donald Trump.
On Sunday, the Biden campaign announced that the former vice president was adopting part of a bill Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) unveiled in 2017 that would make public colleges and universities free to those with family incomes below $125,000. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton similarly backed the idea as she sought to consolidate the Vermont senator’s support in her 2016 campaign for president.
In his second run for the White House, Sanders went further and proposed free college for all and the cancellation of all student loan debt.
“It’s great that Joe Biden is now supporting a position that was in the Democratic platform four years ago,” Sanders said in a statement on Sunday, suggesting he was late to the party.
A senior Biden campaign official said the former vice president is making it clear to supporters of other candidates that there is “space for them,” adding that he “welcomes their ideas, passion and their commitment to the issues they care so deeply about.” The Biden campaign did not immediately offer information as to how he intended to pay for the college tuition plan.
After his string of primary losses earlier this month, Sanders said he intended to remain in the race to argue on behalf of a progressive agenda, acknowledging the race was effectively over. He offered a preview of what he would ask Biden in Sunday night’s debate, urging him to adopt more progressive stances on the economy, health care and climate change.
Biden over the weekend also endorsed Warren’s signature bankruptcy plan even though the two clashed over the issue over a decade ago on Capitol Hill, when she was a Harvard Law professor and he served as a senator from Delaware. The Massachusetts senator skewered Biden over the issue in a primary debate earlier this year.
“I’ve endorsed Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy proposal, which in fact goes further, allows for student debt to be relieved in bankruptcy,” Biden told supporters in a virtual town hall on Friday.
Warren’s plan would repeal portions of the 2005 bankruptcy law in order to make it easier for families to find relief from crushing debt and start over.
Warren has not yet made an endorsement in the presidential race. According to The New York Times, she is unlikely to do so, opting instead to let the process play out.
Biden on Friday received another big endorsement from organized labor when the National Education Association threw its weight behind his campaign. The powerful teachers union called Biden a “tireless advocate for public education” and “the partner that students and educators need now in the White House” in a statement announcing the union’s support.