Presidential hopeful Booker addresses BDS, student debt, climate in conversation with the Daily

Presidential hopeful Booker speaks at a private home in Portsmouth, N.H. Courtesy Kevin Lowery via Cory Booker

Last night, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) held a press call with college journalists around the country, answering questions on a range of issues from the student debt crisis to the climate crisis.

Booker began by delivering brief opening remarks, first highlighting the theme of his campaign: common purpose.

“I’ve made the theme of my campaign from the very beginning the urgency of us all to come together and heal and to recognize that we share so many common challenges and so much common pain,” Booker said.

Throughout the hour-long call, Booker addressed his positions on a range of topics — showing the most passion with his positions on relieving student debt, race relations and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

In particular, Booker spoke against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls on people to boycott businesses from and associated with Israel to push the Israeli government to alter its policies on Palestinians.

“I do not support BDS. Never have, never will,” Booker said. “There are some in the BDS movement that don’t believe Israel should even exist. It’s an anti-Israel movement. I believe a lot of things that BDS is calling for actually hurt our ability to get a two-state solution.”

Booker then reiterated his long-standing position calling for a two-state solution and briefly laid out what his administration’s policies would be regarding the conflict.

“I fully committed to Palestinians having their own fate and the right to self-determination … I’m real concerned as someone who has been to the West Bank and met with Palestinian leaders and continues to fight against this administration who is drawing away critical humanitarian aid,” Booker said.

Booker then turned his attention to the student debt crisis, where he’s advocated for tuition-free community colleges, permitting refinancing existing student loans, and — his landmark policy — providing every baby born in the U.S. with a savings account containing $1,000 to accrue interest throughout their life.

“I believe in forgiving the debts of people going into public interest careers — like teaching or public defenders. I believe in forgiving the debt of low-income Americans who are struggling to make it,” the senator said.

Booker then spoke about his longer-term proposals.

“[We’re going to] stop the profiteering of the federal government — the federal government makes billions and billions of dollars off of the student debt program — we want to end that … We want to make student loan work like all debt, that can be discharged in the case of bankruptcy,” he said.

On the issue of student loan debt, Booker described the implications of his “Baby Bond” program.

“We’re going to put a thousand dollars into an interest-bearing account, an account that will be able to accrue interest … that means the lowest income kids in America will, by the time they’re 18, [be able] to have upwards of $50,000 in their account,” he said.

Finally, Booker addressed his policy on climate change and what he hopes to accomplish on his first day in office.

“There are not enough Americans engaged with a sense of urgency on [the climate] … When I am the president-elect I’m going to start building the kind of coalition [we need] before I even take office on day one … on day one, I’ll rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, roll back this administration’s fuel efficiency standards … there are so many issues we’re going to try and pack into the first 24 hours,” he said.

Booker then highlighted the urgency of taking action on the climate.

“Our climate plan is about making the ambitious goal we have to make — we must have this nation’s electricity be carbon neutral by 2030 … from putting a price on carbon to massive investment in research and development and the major pillar of it which is about environmental injustice, rolling back the many incentives that are given to oil and gas and fossil fuel companies that allow big companies like Chevron to pay net zero taxes,” he said.

Booker then closed the call by highlighting the power millennials have in the electoral process.

“If voting amongst young people was up to 70%, non-millennials are the biggest population bubble in America right now and they have the ability to sway almost every election — but right now we don’t get the voter turnout we need,” Booker said. “In the history of our country, change never comes from Washington — it comes to Washington … [climate change] is a dire existential crisis that we’re facing and it demands from all of us a lot more engagement and a lot more activism — and that’s the way I’m going to lead as President of the United States.”


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