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Michael Bennet is a two-term Colorado senator who has served in Congress since 2009. He received treatment for prostate cancer in the spring, but decided to run for president after receiving a “clean bill of health” from his doctor.
Bennet was raised in Washington, D.C., but born in New Delhi, India, where his father served as an aide to the U.S. ambassador. His brother, James Bennet, is the editorial page editor for The New York Times who recused himself from any opinion coverage of the 2020 election after his brother announced a White house bid. Before his political career, Bennet served as the superintendent of Denver Public Schools from 2005 to 2009.
Here’s where Bennet stands on six issues.
The senator has centered his presidential campaign around providing “quality education for every American” from early childhood through high school. Bennet has positioned himself as an opponent of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and has criticized her support of school choice programs, saying her policies focus on “ideology rather than improvement,” and “competition without a commitment to equity.”
As a senator, Bennet supported efforts to simplify the financial aid process and expand year-round Pell Grants to alleviate student debt. As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he helped overhaul the No Child Left Behind Act and passed an amendment to reduce the standardized testing reporting requirements for schools, which had been widely criticized.
During his tenure as Denver superintendent, he drew criticism for closing struggling schools, including Manual High School.
As president, Bennet says he would seek to expand the Child Tax Credit in order to support low-income and middle-class families. Bennet has proposed a similar measure in the Senate; in 2017, he introduced legislation that would more than triple the Child Tax Credit.
According to a memo from his campaign, Bennet believes that “globalization, automation, and unfair competition from China have left far too many workers and families behind.” Some of the solutions he’s proposed to improve the U.S. economy include creating climate-resilient jobs for farmers and rural workers, investing in “industries of the future,” such as artificial intelligence, and improving mass transit systems.
Last month, Bennet authored an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing that President Donald Trump’s trade policies have hurt American farmers. In response to ongoing trade negotiations, Bennet has called on Trump to “hold China accountable” when it comes to unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft.
Bennet has called Medicare for All, a plan backed by several other 2020 Democrats, a “bad opening offer.” But he does favor creating a public option for health insurance that he said would increase competition and lower costs among healthcare providers.
Bennet unveiled a version of this plan, called “Medicare X,” alongside Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., in March. Bennet said a public option would give Americans the opportunity to decide whether to stay on an employer-based plan. Medicare X is considered a more moderate alternative to Medicare for All, as it does not eliminate private insurance.
Bennet has not yet rolled out an immigration plan as a presidential candidate, but his legislative record on the issue is bipartisan. He was part of the “Gang of Eight” that passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate in 2013. The bill included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, plans for enhanced border-control measures, and an expanded visa program.
Last year, Bennet was also part of a group that proposed giving President Donald Trump $1.6 billion for a border wall in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers,” or immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. But Bennet has also voiced opposition to the border wall. He told NPR last year that “building a 2,000-mile wall on the southern border is not the most efficient way to protect ourselves.”
On his campaign website, Bennet calls for the U.S. to have a stronger leadership role on the world stage, and also says the nation should strengthen its partnership with longtime allies.
Recently, Bennet expressed support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, as well as a measure that would grant Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans that have fled to the United States. In December, he supported a resolution to end U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Bennet has also focused on technology and cyber threats posed by China and other countries, and has pursued legislation to protect the U.S. energy grid and safeguard American companies against state-sponsored technology theft.
Bennet opposes the Pentagon’s policy banning transgender individuals from joining the military, which took effect last month. Last year, Bennet signed a letter to then-Defense Secretary James Mattis opposing the Trump administration’s plans for a transgender military ban. The letter, which was signed by 45 senators, said that “forcing these brave Americans out of our military would be cruel and discriminatory.”
The Colorado senator said on his website that he intends to reverse the transgender military ban should he be elected president. He also said more broadly that he intends to “protect all Americans from discrimination, whether based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.” In 2010, Bennet said he supported same-sex marriage but believed it should be decided by the states. In 2012, he voiced his full support for same-sex marriage. Bennet is pro-choice; he won his Senate seat partly by going after his opponent’s hard-line stance against abortion.
Correction: It was originally reported that Bennet’s father served as a U.S. ambassador; he was an aide to Ambassador Chester Bowles.
Courtney Vinopal is a general assignment reporter at the PBS NewsHour.
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