Michael Bennet dropped out of the presidential race on February 11, 2020. This page is no longer being updated.
Bennet has pitched himself as a pragmatic lawmaker with a progressive voting record. He was first appointed to the US Senate in 2009 and subsequently elected in 2010 and 2016.
Wesleyan University, B.A., 1987; Yale Law School, 1993
November 28, 1964
Halina, Anne and Caroline
Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, 2005-2009; Chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, 2003; Managing director, Anschutz Investment Company, 1997-2003; Special assistant to the US attorney for Connecticut, 1997; Counsel to the US deputy attorney general, 1995-1997
BENNET IN THE NEWS
'A national government that did nothing to protect' a generation: Colorado senator calls for gun reform in powerful speech
Updated 9:41 PM ET, Wed Mar 24, 2021
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet on Wednesday called on the Senate to act in the wake of a mass shooting at a supermarket in his state, asserting in an impassioned speech from the chamber floor that his colleagues have a moral obligation to a generation of young Americans who have lived through dozens of such attacks. "Boulder will heal but this scar will always be there -- my daughter's generation will always bear the burden of a national government that did nothing to protect them. They and the children that I used to work for at the Denver Public Schools, they carry a burden that we didn't carry," the Colorado Democrat said, referencing his previous work as superintendent of the school district. "They have grown up with a reasonable fear that they will be shot in their classrooms or in their schools or at a movie theater or in any public place. I didn't grow up in an America with more gun-related deaths than virtually any country in this world, and we can't accept it for their America," he continued. The at-times emotional speech from a senator whose state previously witnessed the Columbine and Aurora massacres comes at a time of heightened debate over guns on Capitol Hill following seven mass shootings in seven days around the country, including in Boulder, Colorado, and a rampage in Atlanta. But despite Democratic control of the House, Senate and White House, potential gun reform faces an uphill battle, with Senate Democrats divided over House-passed measures including expanded background checks. The 21-year-old suspect in Monday's massacre at the Boulder supermarket -- which left 10 dead including a store manager and a police officer -- faces 10 counts of murder in the first degree, police said Tuesday. The motive in the attack isn't immediately known, and the investigation will take a long time, authorities said. Bennet stressed Wednesday that gun violence has been a longstanding issue for both his state and the country, speaking to the current political climate in calling for gun regulations. "I'm not asking anybody here to show the courage that (Boulder shooting victim) Officer Talley showed, or the other men and women of law enforcement who constantly have to deal with the inability of this place's capacity to deal with these issues," Bennet told his fellow senators. "I'm just asking us to show just an ounce of their courage by doing whatever we can to keep weapons of war out of our communities, to pass universal background checks, to limit the size of magazines, to address the epidemic crisis of mental health in this country. It seems like that would be the least that we could do." Lawmakers' failure to act, he said, "has helped create these conditions, and we can't wait any longer. The Senate needs to act. There's nobody else to act but the United States Senate." The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed two bills on March 11 that would expand background checks on all commercial gun sales. While the first of the two recently passed bills, H.R. 8, has bipartisan support in the House, it needs a supermajority in the Senate -- which it does not currently have. Bennet also referenced the Columbine High School shooting, which occurred in Colorado in 1999, as a benchmark for the many such massacres punctuating the young adulthoods of an entire generation of Americans, including his daughter. "The shootings at Columbine High School happened right before my oldest daughter was born, Caroline Bennet," Bennet said. "She's 21 years old, and her entire generation has grown up in the shadow of gun violence, something none of us had to do." Bennet, a moderate Democrat and former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, is up for reelection in 2022. While the seat is not seen as particularly vulnerable in light of Colorado having trended blue, Democrats are still monitoring the race, which could potentially see gun control emerge as a key issue. While speaking on the Senate floor, Bennet also read remembrances of the 10 victims' lives, including Officer Eric Talley, the first Boulder police officer to arrive at the shooting. "I've spent the past day learning about the victims of this terrible crime and I want America to know what extraordinary human beings we've lost in my state," Bennet said, tearing up while recounting one woman's account of how grateful she was that her father, who was killed in the shooting, could walk her down the aisle at her wedding last year. "Officer Talley and these other folks represent the best of Colorado, and we certainly owe Officer Talley a debt of gratitude we'll never be able to repay," Bennet said, adding that "my heart goes out to all of the families and the entire community of Boulder. We have endured too many tragedies as a state. So many other states are the same, here."
Bennet has said he doesn’t support the Green New Deal, the broad plan to address renewable-energy infrastructure and climate change proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Instead, he has released his own five-principle plan, which would significantly increase the protection of public lands. “I think it is great that we have a bunch of bold proposals out there,” Bennet said in May 2019. “We are going to have a competition of ideas.” Bennet has set a target of 100% net-zero emissions by no later than 2050, although he has not detailed how he would reach this goal. He also said he would create a $1 trillion “climate bank” to invest in infrastructure and, he hopes, spur private investment in green energy innovation. Bennet says the plan would create 10 million jobs over a decade related to what he calls the “zero-emission economy.”Bennet has said he would keep the US in the Paris climate agreement, a landmark 2015 deal on global warming targets that Trump has pledged to abandon. More on Bennet’s climate crisis policy
Bennet has not signed on with congressional Democratic efforts to pass a $15 minimum wage. According to his campaign, he favors an increase to $12 per hour. He’s also introduced legislation to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and overhaul and expand the child tax credit, which currently provides families with a credit of up to $2,000 for each dependent under 17. Under Bennet’s plan, families would get a $300 monthly credit for each child under 6 and $250 a month for each child under 17. He has actively opposed some of Trump’s trade actions. With Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, Bennet filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to reverse the President’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and he has opposed Trump’s trade war with China, specifically because of the negative impact on American farmers. But he has also said Trump “was right to call China out.” More on Bennet’s economic policy
Bennet unveiled a plan in September 2019 pledging that by 2028, “every child born in this country, regardless of circumstance, will be at the center of a community that offers them a real chance to flourish personally and prosper financially,” according to his campaign. The plan calls for a federal-state partnership to establish free nationwide preschool, support for school districts that establish longer school days and school years, free community college for all Americans, increases to teacher pay and more funding for schools in rural areas and “high-poverty and otherwise underserved schools.” As Denver schools superintendent, Bennet was deeply involved in shaping merit-pay plans for teachers. As a presidential candidate he has called for taking steps to raise teacher pay. “We have to pay teachers as the professionals that they are. And that’s not just a little bit more. That is a lot more,” he said at a CNN town hall. More on Bennet’s education policy
Bennet has voted to ban high-capacity magazines and supports universal background checks. While he did not co-sponsor the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, Bennet says he would support banning so-called assault weapons. He did not endorse the recent legislation because it “was overly drawn and allowed the manufacturers to avoid the ban,” he told CNN in May 2019.
Bennet is not in favor of plans that would eliminate private insurance. He co-sponsored a plan known as “Medicare-X” that would let individuals and small businesses buy government-backed insurance policies, known as a public option, on the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The plan would also allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices. Bennet says Americans should still have choice when it comes to health insurance. “We need to get to universal health care,” he said during the first Democratic debate. “I believe the way to do that is by finishing the work we started with Obamacare and creating a public option.” In July 2019, he introduced a rural health care plan that would harness technology to provide medical services in rural communities, including allowing doctors to see patients via video chat and remotely monitor patients. The plan would provide up to $10,000 a year in loan forgiveness and repayment support for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who choose to work in rural areas. And it would invest $60 billion to combat substance abuse, including building more treatment centers. More on Bennet’s health care policy
Bennet has compared Trump’s separation of families at the border to his Jewish mother’s experience being separated from her own parents as a child in Poland during the Holocaust. “When I see these kids at the border, I see my mom,” Bennet said during the first Democratic debate. He has called for overhauling the asylum process and restoring aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to reduce the flow of migrants north. He’s a co-sponsor to a Senate bill called the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act. Bennet has said he still stands by the last major bipartisan immigration package, negotiated in 2013, which included a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants. He also co-sponsored the DREAM Act of 2009, some of which was eventually put into effect through Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting from deportation some undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as minors.
LATEST POLITICAL NEWS
Masks and vaccine mandate show CDC and Biden taking emergency action amid Covid-19 surge
Updated 11:26 PM ET, Tue Jul 27, 2021
The steps President Joe Biden's administration is adopting this week to re-recommend masks and require vaccines for federal workers amount to emergency actions designed to contain a new surge of Covid-19 that has quickly become the top issue confronting the White House. The moves reflect a dramatic shift from earlier messaging about the pandemic waning and signal the fight of Biden's presidency is far from over. Biden on Tuesday explicitly laid blame for the current situation on unvaccinated people -- an escalation of his use of the bully pulpit as he furiously searches with his team for ways to curb the spread of the virus. The White House and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are adjusting its tactics because of a surge in cases driven by the fast-spreading Delta variant and new information about transmission even by vaccinated people, multiple sources familiar with the matter said. The decisions were not taken lightly, administration officials said, and came after a series of meetings, including a Sunday evening session where the new mask guidelines and a vaccine requirement at the Department of Veterans Affairs were discussed among Biden's team. Officials from the CDC and other federal health agencies continued to brief White House officials into Monday. Biden is expected to deliver remarks on Thursday laying out more of his strategy, including the announcement of a vaccine requirement for all federal workers and contractors. He said Tuesday a vaccine requirement for all federal workers was under consideration. Officials said such a requirement wouldn't include dismissing those workers who remain unvaccinated; instead, new rules would require regular testing and masks for those who have refused shots, making life difficult for anyone who decides not to get a vaccine. White House staffers were back in masks on Tuesday, required to wear them regardless of vaccination status, per an official. Biden's aides said they were aware of the potential political fallout from the recent steps, and acknowledged privately that earlier resistance to vaccine requirements was based partly on the expectation it would spark backlash. But now, officials said health concerns should outweigh what many expect will be accusations of flip-flopping and harsh blowback from Republicans. Top officials pored through new data and evidence regarding transmissibility of the variant and breakthrough cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, briefed Biden on the changes Tuesday morning. Among the more significant announcements was a recommendation everyone in K-12 schools wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. "If you're not vaccinated, you're not nearly as smart as I thought you were," Biden said on Tuesday, adopting a harsher tone against the still-hesitant he blamed for the continuing outbreaks. "We have a pandemic because the unvaccinated and they're sowing enormous confusion. And the more we learn about this virus and the Delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And there's only one thing we know for sure, if those other hundred million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world," he said. One person close to the White House called the Veterans Affairs mandate a "watershed" moment, putting the federal government in the business of vaccine mandates in what this person described as a test case for more action. "Delta creates a different environment," this person said, explaining the White House's shift in tactics. "This should hopefully egg along the private sector." Ultimately, concerns about spikes in hospitalizations and deaths in unvaccinated Americans led to decisions officials acknowledge will be politically fraught. The VA said four of its employees had recently died from Covid-19 -- and that none had been vaccinated. On both masks and vaccine mandates, Biden officials have acknowledged privately that taking a forward-leaning stance will open the administration to political attacks. The President's aides rejected "vaccine passports" early in their tenure, aware the concept had become a lightning rod. But since then, as the vaccination campaign stalled, health experts have increasingly called for a more aggressive posture. In another sign of the growing concern over the Delta variant, the House of Representatives' attending physician sent out new guidance later Tuesday requiring that "well-fitted, medical grade" masks be worn in all interior spaces of the House in light of the new CDC guidance. "To be clear, for meetings in an enclosed US House of Representatives controlled space, masks are REQUIRED," Capitol Attending Physician Brian Monahan said in a memo. Worried over moving too slow Some of the administration's health officials were concerned the CDC was moving too slowly to update its mask guidance as the Delta variant ripped through communities, according to a senior administration official. White House officials have repeatedly said it would be up to the CDC whether to change official guidance and that they would follow the lead of health and medical experts. Two months ago, when the CDC updated its mask guidance saying most who are fully vaccinated could go without masks indoors, it moved so quickly that administration officials were informed less than a day before. Biden himself delivered a statement hailing the milestone. This time, officials said, the process moved in a more methodical way as the CDC decided how to proceed. A senior administration official said the decision was spurred by the more transmissible Delta variant. "It's based on the fact that the Delta variant is clearly more transmissible than the prior ones," the official said. New evidence also found that levels of virus found in the bodies of vaccinated people with breakthrough infections are similar to those found in unvaccinated individuals who contract coronavirus, raising concerns that vaccinated individuals may be able to spread the virus, the officials said. Versions of the virus that dominated in the past generally did not appear to be transmitted by people who had been fully vaccinated. "When you get information about risks and how to mitigate risks, there's a public health obligation to let people know about it," the official said. The White House is hoping that the new guidance will give local officials "a lot of cover" to implement new mask mandates where appropriate. It's still unknown whether the new steps will be effective. New recommendations for fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors apply to areas of the country with high rates of transmission. But many of the hardest-hit areas are places where mask wearing was already unusual. And some Republican governors -- many in Covid hot spots -- have declared they will not return to mask mandates. A psychological setback The new guidance comes about two months after Biden declared it a "great day in America" when the CDC revised its mask guidelines for vaccinated people and reflects a psychological setback for a country struggling to emerge from the grips of the pandemic. Still, the new steps are a sign that Biden and his team are looking for additional ways to contain a pandemic that is now entering a new phase because of the Delta variant. White House officials have been encouraged in recent days by upticks in vaccination rates, notably in states where caseloads are rising. But concerns over vaccine hesitancy remain, leading to new vaccine mandates for cities and states across the country. California said state employees and health care workers would need to get vaccinated or be tested regularly. New York City said its municipal workers would need to be vaccinated or face a test once a week. And in San Francisco, 500 bars said they'd require proof of vaccination or a negative test for all customers. VA vaccine mandate could be a key test After resisting implementing any vaccine mandates for federal workers or overseeing a vaccine credentialing system, the Biden administration dipped its toes in the business of compelling Americans to get vaccinated, beginning with a narrow requirement requiring Department of Veterans Affairs' health care workers be vaccinated. The White House views the VA mandate as a key test that could clear the way for other vaccine mandates within the federal government and which could encourage private sector entities to follow suit, two sources familiar with the decision said, but a national mandate is not feasible nor being contemplated. Biden administration health officials increasingly believe that making vaccination mandatory or unavoidable is the only way to break stalled vaccination rates that are keeping the US from reaching herd immunity. About 6% of adults said they would only get vaccinated if required, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's most recent monthly survey. Another 10% said they will "wait and see" before getting vaccinated. France saw a spike in vaccinations after that nation's president, Emmanuel Macron, said residents will need to be vaccinated or show a recent negative coronavirus test to enter restaurants and bars beginning next month. The White House has long resisted getting involved in coronavirus vaccine mandates and credentialing systems, fearing that doing so would only feed right-wing accusations of government overreach and undermine efforts to convince hesitant conservatives to get vaccinated. Heading in a tougher direction But stalled vaccination rates -- particularly in southern, conservative states -- are now propelling the White House in a different direction. "You don't pursue routes that we announced today until you've gone through and given people the opportunity to get vaccinated," one source close to the White House said, pointing to the importance of giving Americans the choice to get vaccinated before turning to harder-line tactics. On Monday, a collection of medical groups representing doctors, nurses and pharmacists called for mandatory vaccinations for US health care workers, writing, "The health and safety of U.S. workers, families, communities, and the nation depends on it." Press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House supported that call. "These actions, in our view, are meant to keep patients and employees safe, and in fact I expect our own federal health care providers may look at similar requirements, as they do with other vaccines," she said. Asked whether such requirements could help improve vaccination rates, Psaki said they could. "It may," she said. "And beyond the President's goals, it may save lives, and that's the most important factor, in our view." Biden's powers to mandate shots among the wider public is limited. He could make them compulsory for members of the military but hasn't taken that step yet, as the three vaccines currently authorized for emergency