By JOHN VERHOVEK and MOLLY NAGLE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaigns have reached an agreement that will see the Biden campaign voluntarily appoint some Sanders supporters to serve as delegates at the 2020 Democratic convention, according to a joint memo from the campaigns Thursday morning.
“While Senator Sanders is no longer actively seeking the nomination, the Biden campaign feels strongly that it is in the best interest of the party and the effort to defeat Donald Trump in November to come to an agreement regarding these issues that will ensure representation of Sanders supporters and delegate candidates, both on the floor and in committees,” the memo states.
Under the agreement, the Biden campaign would essentially allow Sanders to retain delegates he would have otherwise had to forfeit due to Democratic National Committee rules. After his departure from the race roughly a third of Sanders’ delegates would have been reallocated to Biden. The other two-thirds of delegates stay with a candidate through the convention. Under current delegate estimates Sanders will retain slightly more than 300 delegates as a result of the agreement with the Biden campaign.
The agreement allows for those delegate slots to be filled by Sanders supporters to ensure he retains influence on the three standing committee’s at the Democratic National Convention this summer.
The move is a major step towards unifying the party ahead of November and mending the still lingering split between the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic Party, and a sign of the increased coordination between Biden’s campaign and the DNC, which only formally began earlier this month.
“We must defeat Donald Trump this fall, and we believe that this agreement will help bring the party together to get Trump out of the White House and not only rebuild America, but transform it,” the joint statement reads.
Under the agreement reached by the two campaigns, while delegates awarded on the statewide level will officially remain Biden delegates, Sanders supporters will fill them at the national convention “based on the candidates’ respective statewide results.”
The agreement also allows both the Biden and Sanders campaigns a “presidential right of review process,” which affords them the authority to approve or reject the people they want to fill certain delegate slots, ensuring that loyal supporters are in fact being elected to be delegates to the convention on their behalf.
The agreement follows other overtures from the Biden campaign to Sanders’ more progressive supporters following the Vermont senator’s endorsement of Biden on April 14, including adopting a more aggressive plan to make college tuition free for middle and low income families for public universities, along with a Bankruptcy policy championed by Massachusetts’ Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
In addition to the endorsement earlier this month, Biden and Sanders agreed to work together through a series of working groups on key policy issues. However, few details of those working groups have emerged since the announcement was made.
The memo released Thursday also references the recent decision by the New York State Board of Elections to strike Sanders’ name from the ballot and to effectively cancel the presidential primary due to the Vermont senator’s official exit from the race.
The memo states that “if the state remains eligible for delegates, the campaigns are committed to working together to ensure representation for Senator Sanders in the New York delegation.”
Earlier this week the Sanders campaign blasted New York’s decision, calling it “an outrage” and “a blow to American democracy,” calling on the DNC to strip the state of all its delegates to the convention if the situation is not remedied.
But regardless of the lingering acrimony, the agreement reached Thursday was marked by a call for unity and resolve to focus on the ultimate goal of defeating Trump in November.
“Our campaigns are grateful for the unity and spirit of collaboration within the Democratic Party as we look to defeat Donald Trump and establish a government by and for the American people. We look forward to working with the state parties to implement this approach, as we elect delegates who reflect and represent the diversity that is the unique strength of our great nation,” the memo concludes.
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