As we near the 2020 election, here's where the candidates stand on family leave, healthcare, gun control, and cost of college.

By Kristi Pahr

Though it seems like it’s been going for years, election season is only now getting into full-swing⁠—the plethora of Democratic presidential candidates are ramping up their campaigns in preparation for state primary elections, slated to begin in early 2020. With so many candidates to keep track of, it can be hard to keep their policies and promises straight and to know how those policies will affect you and your family.

To help you cut through the political jargon and complicated analyses and get right to what matters, we took a close look at the four leading Democratic contenders and how their policies might affect your family.

Elizabeth Warren

Known for her catchphrase “I have a plan for that” and progressive policies, Elizabeth Warren is a 2nd-term senator in Massachusets. Before her career in politics, she served as a law school professor, lawyer, and teacher.

  • Parental Leave: Warren is a supporter of the FAMILY Act, which provides up to 12 weeks of leave with up to 66% of normal income for new parents, those caring for a sick family member, or parents who are sick themselves. The time can be taken by both parents as needed. Funds are slated to come from a slight increase in payroll taxes, paid by both employers and employees.
  • Healthcare: She is in favor of Medicare For All, a single-payer, government-run, healthcare system that would essentially eliminate the need for private insurance. To pay for what is estimated to be a 52 trillion dollar overhaul of the healthcare system, Warren recently released a funding plan. Employers will pay into the fund using the money they have historically paid into private insurance plans for employees. Warren also intends to increase her planned wealth tax from 3% to 6% for the nation’s wealthiest citizens (those worth more than one billion dollars), tax large corporations, and make up the difference by shoring up tax enforcement efforts.
  • Gun Control: Characterized by Warren as a public health crisis, gun control is high on her list of priorities. She plans to take executive action to require background checks on all gun sales, including those online and at gun shows, raise the minimum age of sales to 18, and enforce reporting on mass sales of weapons.
  • Cost of College: Warren is a supporter of free public education and says her “ultra-millionaire” tax will fund four years of tuition expenses at all public colleges and universities. Warren also plans to eliminate up to $50,000 of student loan debt for borrowers making less than $100,000 per year. The percentage of debt forgiven will decrease as income increases, capping at a yearly income of $250,000 or higher.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, who lost the 2016 primary to Hillary Clinton, has served as Vermont's junior senator since 2007 and prior to his election to the Senate served as Congressman from 1991-2007 and as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont.

  • Parental Leave: Sanders supports the FAMILY Act which will provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for both parents. They will receive up to 66% of their normal income and the leave can be used not only by new parents for by those caring for a sick loved one or who are sick themselves.
  • Healthcare: Sanders is the pioneer of the one-payer system. It was a hallmark of his 2016 presidential bid and is a keystone of his current campaign. Medicare for All will do away with the need for private insurance, providing benefits to everyone. In his plan, employers will pay into the fund by imposing a 7.5% increase to employer-side payroll taxes.
  • Gun Control: Sanders supports implementing a government-sponsored buyback program on assault weapons, though it’s unclear whether this will be voluntary or mandatory. He also supports banning high-capacity magazines and is in favor of universal background checks, closing the “gun-show loophole” which allows people to buy weapons with no background check.
  • Cost of College: Sanders is a proponent of free public education and intends to provide free tuition to all public colleges and universities. Under his plan, states would be responsible for 33% of the cost with the federal government footing the remainder of the bill. Sanders also plans to eliminate all student loan debt, both privately held and government-sponsored.

Joe Biden 

As former Vice President to President Barack Obama and longtime Senator, Joe Biden served as both member and chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Senate Foreign Relations Committees.

  • Parental Leave: Biden has not yet released a plan for paid leave.
  • Healthcare: Biden plans to overhaul the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA). He will add a provision that no one will be required to pay more than 8.5% of their income for medical expenses and allows for the public option that was included in an earlier draft of the ACA under the Obama administration.
  • Gun Control: Biden will implement a voluntary gun buyback program as well as ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
  • Cost of College: Two-year community colleges, as well as other vocational programs, would be free under Biden’s plan. Biden plans to reduce income-driven repayment plans, currently around 10%20 of borrowers’ discretionary income, to  5%. Borrowers who earn less than $25,000 per year would not be required to pay anything back and for all other borrowers, after 20 years, student loan debt would be forgiven completely. 

Pete Buttigieg

The South Bend, Indiana mayor is the youngest candidate running for the Democratic nomination. Buttigieg graduated from Harvard University and joined the Navy, where he reached the rank of Lieutenant and spent time deployed to Afghanistan.

  • Parental Leave: Buttigieg supports the FAMILY Act, allowing up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave for both parents.
  • Healthcare: Buttigieg plans to overhaul the ACA to allow for a public option that would allow private insurers to compete with government-sponsored insurance programs.
  • Gun Control: Buttigieg would sponsor a voluntary government buyback of assault weapons, universal background checks, as well as a federal gun registry requiring gun owners to be licensed.
  • Cost of College: Buttigieg plans to make college free for families earning less than $100,000 per year, expand Pell grants, and invest in HBCUs. His plan would provide student loan debt relief for borrowers who provide national service in the form of military service or in several service organizations his program will create—a few that have been mentioned are a Climate Corps, Community Health Corp, and Intergenerational Service Corps.

Donald Trump

While presumed Republican nominee President Donald Trump has not yet announced any specific policy changes headed into the 2020 election, he has indicated over the past year that he plans to present a sweeping overhaul to healthcare, dismantling the ACA, and his team has hinted that they’re studying possible changes to current gun legislation.



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