- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2019

While the political jockeying gets more attention, candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential field are advancing serious policy proposals. The Washington Times takes a weekly look at some of them that may have flown under the radar.

Pete Buttigieg rolled out a plan this week aimed at bolstering volunteerism among young people, setting a goal of recruiting 1 million “national service members” by 2026.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor would expand service opportunities in programs like AmeriCorps from 75,000 slots to 250,000. He would also create new service organizations, like a Climate Corps and Community Health Corps.

He would aim to recruit high school students and young adults who aren’t working or attending school, and students at community colleges, vocational schools, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and minority-serving institutions.

“Part of what national service, true national service, can do is it can invite people to move past their backgrounds or divisions, to move past an urban-rural divide or a left and right political divide, to overcome racial barriers to understanding,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a video released by his campaign.

Mr. Buttigieg, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, said he saw that during his duty, but he said people shouldn’t have to go to war to have those experiences.

His campaign said the overall goal is to create a pathway toward a “universal, national expectation of service” for 4 million high school graduates every year.

Booker on immigration

Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey announced a series of executive actions he said he would take as president to make life easier for immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally, including “virtually” eliminating detention, cutting criminal prosecutions and encouraging sanctuary cities.

“When kids are being stripped away from their parents and held in cages, I will not wait for Congress to solve this crisis,” Mr. Booker said Tuesday. “On day one of my presidency, I will take immediate steps to end this administration’s moral vandalism.”

He and fellow Democrats have decried the Trump administration’s approach to immigration, saying it’s made the border situation worse by cutting down on legal avenues and pressuring migrants to make the rough illegal journey to the U.S.

Among other priorities, Mr. Booker would direct U.S. attorneys to de-prioritize prosecuting people for improperly entering the United States unless they posed a public safety risk. That would be another way of decriminalizing illegal entry under Section 1325 of the immigration law — a position that has become standard for most of the major candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential field.

Mr. Booker would also shut down “inhumane” detention facilities and require them to meet high standards and transparency requirements.

He promised an overhaul of both the border and interior immigration enforcement agencies, and said he would cancel Trump policies demanding a crackdown on sanctuary cities and promoting more interior enforcement.

Delaney on opioids

Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland unveiled a plan Tuesday to increase accountability for patients using opioids, saying they are a key part of curbing the abuse epidemic.

His plan would require doctors to have their patients sign disclosure forms acknowledging the addictive qualities of the drugs. He would also promote non-opioid pain management options, and add political pressure to pharmaceutical companies to be more wary of what they’re supplying.

“Working together, we can put an end to the opioid epidemic,” Mr. Delaney said. “We won’t get there overnight or over the next year, but by creating a stronger mental health system, strengthening prevention efforts, and helping those with addiction to rebuild their lives, we can stop the crisis which has hurt millions of American families.”

The issue has gotten comparatively less attention compared to the 2016 campaign, when candidates were peppered with frequent questions about how they planned to combat the crisis, notably in the early presidential state of New Hampshire.

Congress has pumped billions of dollars into the issue and passed laws trying to constrain the supply of illicit painkillers entering the U.S.

Mr. Delaney said states should be encouraged with federal block grants, funded by a new 2-cent tax on morphine milligram equivalents in prescription pain pills.

He also wants to limit the cost of non-opioid pain treatments and behavioral counseling, and strengthen and expand programs to help pregnant and postpartum people get access to treatment and help children born with withdrawal symptoms.

Warren on U.S. diplomacy

Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week rolled out a plan to reshape America’s diplomatic corps, vowing to change the way some plum ambassadors’ posts are doled out.

While key strategic nations are staffed by high-level career diplomats, presidents of both parties reward contributors and political allies with postings to the capitals of Europe.

No more, vowed Ms. Warren.

“I won’t give ambassadorial posts to wealthy donors or bundlers — period,” she said in a Medium post, also vowing to ensure that senior positions in the State Department are held by experienced career diplomats.

“Trump has perfected the act of selling swanky diplomatic posts to rich buffoons,” she said. “The practice of auctioning off American diplomacy to the highest bidder must end.”

Ms. Warren also said she’ll double the size of the foreign service, saying the State Department is “too small” compared to the Defense Department.

She called for ROTC-like programs at colleges in the U.S. to recruit the next generation of foreign service officers, and said she would double the size of the Peace Corps and increase programs designed to recruit State Department employees from minority and low-income populations.

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