(WASHINGTON) -- From reducing student loan debt to expanding voter rights to dealing with the scourge of violent crime, liberals on Wednesday laid out an ambitious agenda for the waning years of the Obama presidency.
At a day-long summit organized by Generation Progress, the youth division of the influential Washington-based think tank Center for American Progress, speakers such as Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi articulated their goals to an audience of more than 1,000.
Here are five issues that came up again and again at the Make Progress National Summit, and the ones most likely to be focal points for Democrats in the next two years:
1. Student Loan Debt:
Catering to a crowd of millennials, members of Congress who spoke at the summit used the crisis as fuel for the liberal fire. Indeed, Warren, dedicated her entire speech to highlighting the crisis and had quite a few choice words for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. When discussing the failure of her “Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act” bill, Warren said that a filibuster of the bill was led by McConnell, prompting several boos from the crowd. She went on to say, “We are going to build a better country than the one Mitch McConnell envisions,” garnering applause. Toward the end of her speech, she told the crowd to challenge Republican senators and “ask them why they work for billionaires instead of for students trying to build a better future.”
2. Campus Sexual Assault:
The high rate of sexual assault on college campuses was also a huge talking point at the summit. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., expressed her frustration with the issue, acknowledging that female college students are more likely to be raped than women of the same age who are not in college. She went on to say, “We are failing our students. This isn’t just a date gone bad or a guy drinking too much. These are predators.” Biden also touched on the issue, ensuring that he is committed to a no-tolerance policy for violence against women on college campuses and that men who physically assault women should be punished.
3. Paid Leave:
Gillibrand also discussed the issue of paid leave, saying she believes it is time for America to compensate pregnant women and other citizens who take time off to care for family members. “We are the only industrial country in the world without paid leave,” she said. Pelosi, D-Calif., whose speech focused on unleashing the power of women in the work place, also called for paid leave.
4. Gun Violence Prevention:
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., spoke about gun violence prevention in urban, rural and residential areas. He called the inability of Congress to pass a bill supporting tougher background checks for gun purchases “a stunning failure of democracy.” He unconventionally suggested that the liberal audience could learn a lesson from the National Rifle Association, saying that the organization ultimately killed gun control legislation by taking decades to build up the powerful organization. He suggested that Democrats would have to be involved in a similarly lengthy drawn out fight to get gun control legislation to pass.
5. Voting Rights:
Biden also used his soapbox to speak about voting rights and the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to invalidate Section IV of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. “I have to tell you, I never ever thought that I’d be standing here as a grown man in a battle for access to the ballot box in the year 2014,” Biden said. He went on to say that the “single most precious right that an American possesses is unfettered access to the ballot box.”
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