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Kirsten Gillibrand is a three-term U.S. senator from New York, a campaign-volunteer-turned-successor-to Hillary Clinton, an attorney by trade and a locally-connected Democrat by birth. In the House of Representatives, she represented a majority-Republican district.
Gillibrand was the youngest member of the Senate when she was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton in 2009. Now, she is the top Democrat on the Armed Services personnel subcommittee. She is a mom of two, a fierce softball pitcher and hitter, and conversant in Mandarin Chinese. Here is what Kirsten Gillibrand believes on some key issues in the 2020 campaign.
Gillibrand would reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allowed for nearly unlimited campaign contributions from corporate and non-profit organizations. She supports a constitutional amendment to change the law.
The New York senator is also among several prominent Democrats who have pledged to not accept donations from corporate Political Action Committees, or PACs.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal in 2009, Gillibrand proposed establishing a cap-and-trade commodity market to mandate a limit on carbon emissions and allow businesses to trade their emissions allowances as commodities. In addition, she has proposed the “Keep it in the Ground Act,” which would ban any new leases for gas or oil drilling on federal lands.
Gillibrand says she wants to create a path to college for those that can’t afford it by creating better education programs for low-income students and creating tax deductions on college tuition. She co-sponsored the “Debt-Free College Act of 2018,” which offers federal matching funds to states to help students pay for two- and four-year public colleges without taking on debt. The bill would help pay for tuition and room and board, but it does not specify how it would fund the plan.
Gillibrand also wants to make childcare more accessible and more affordable.That includes encouraging more workplaces to host their own in-house childcare. She plans to incentivize more at-work childcare by giving tax credits to companies.
Gillibrand would reinstate a ban on assault weapons as well as ban high-capacity magazines, which enable a weapon to fire dozens of rounds without reloading. She opposes the idea of a national concealed carry policy and favors a number of other restrictions, including closing the “gun show loophole,” requiring background checks for all gun purchases, and increasing restrictions on domestic abusers.
As a House member representing a rural upstate district in New York, Gillibrand held different views on gun control and received an A rating from the NRA. She has said she was wrong and representing an entire state that includes urban communities with more gun violence pushed her to support more gun control measures.
Gillibrand made a name for herself in the Senate as an advocate for victims of sexual assault. The “Campus Accountability and Safety Act” she co-sponsored in 2014 would increase resources and training and set national standards for handling sexual assaults on college campuses. She also believes the military must reform how it handles such assaults; she introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would remove decisions about assault cases from the chain of command. .
She was also one of the first Democrats to call for then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign in 2017 after he was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct.
Gillibrand was a co-sponsor of the “The Medicare for All Act,” a proposal led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., which would ban private health insurance and transition the U.S. to a government-run health system within four years. The bill offers a few funding options, including a new tax on the wealthiest 0.1 percent, and a new premium based on income.
Gillibrand has also proposed expanding the “Basic Health Program,” part of the Affordable Care Act, so that states can offer lower-priced health insurance to more people.
Since entering the Senate, Gillibrand has supported comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including so-called Dreamers who were brought to the country illegally as children.
Gillibrand has also said she would eliminate and “reimagine” ICE. Last year, she proposed a bill that would require ICE and Customs and Border Patrol agents to collect more data when they stop individuals and ask about their immigration status.
Gillibrand’s views on immigration represent a departure from her years in the House. Then, Gillibrand opposed what she called “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, and opposed a plan allowing them to get drivers licenses in New York state.
Gillibrand supports abortion rights, including placing fewer limits on, and expanding access to, abortion. She vocally opposed the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, arguing that he could help overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. She also voted against a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
On gay rights, Gillibrand pushed to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that required members of the military who identified as gay or lesbian to keep their sexual preferences secret. She supported same-sex marriage before it was legalized at the state level in New York. More recently, she opposed the Trump administration’s attempt to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military.
The New York senator would like to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. She agrees with President Donald Trump about ending a system of tribunals that resolve trade differences. But she would like to see more environmental protections and more gains for dairy farmers who trade goods with Canada.
For years, Gillibrand has pushed for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. She has opposed efforts to arm Syrian rebels and she slammed the airstrikes ordered against Syria in the spring of 2018, saying that Trump did not have the authority to order them. Gillibrand also argued that President Barack Obama did not have authority to send U.S. troops to Syria.
Gillibrand co-sponsored legislation that would end U.S. support for the Saudi-led conflict in Yemen. She has written that Saudi Arabia is using American weapons to “terrorize Yemeni civilians.” In regards to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Gillibrand wrote that the U.S. should hold “the Saudi government to account.” It is not clear where she stands on whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman personally was responsible for the killing.
Rachel Wellford is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour.
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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