The Hon. Michael Bennet is a Democratic senior Senator from Colorado, serving on the Agriculture, Finance, and Intelligence committees. Prior to his appointment to the Senate in 2009, Bennet worked as the superintendent of Denver Public Schools and as chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper who has also launched a 2020 presidential bid. Leading up to his career in public service, Bennet worked as managing director at the Anschutz Investment Company. He announced his candidacy on CBS This Morning in early May 2019.
On the Issues
AAI tracks the official and campaign-trail statements of each presidential candidate on the issues we care about most.
Click the icon or scroll to read what Michael Bennet has said on the campaign trail.
For our take on why these are the 12 issues that are critical for our community, read here.
Today’s Supreme Court decision on the gerrymandering cases is further evidence that the court doesn't appreciate the relentless assault on our democracy. The rise of extreme partisan gerrymandering has insulated politicians from real accountability. If the Supreme Act won’t act, Congress must. This week I introduced my Fair Maps Act, which would ban partisan gerrymandering once and for all. The American people deserve fair and accountable representation. (6/27/2019, Facebook)
- "The electoral college is outdated. Americans should directly elect our president, and whoever gets the most votes should win."(6/18/2019, Facebook)
Dan Pfeiffer: So you put forward very recently an aggressive electoral reform, democracy reform plan. What’s in that plan?
Michael Bennet: So there are two parts – is a way of thinking about it broadly – which is taking the money out of politics, and the other part of it is getting people back into politics. There are reforms in Washington, ending political gerrymandering, dealing with Citizens United, banning members of Congress from becoming lobbyists after they leave Washington D.C. I’ve had that bill for 10-years. (7/2/2019, Pod Save America)
- "One is going directly at them to undo the structural challenges that are facing our democracy. Citizens United being one of those, but political gerrymandering being another, the attack on our on voting rights that Shelby versus Holder represents, and whatever it is we need to do inside the Congress to make it work better. And at the same time, I think we have to build a broad coalition of Americans to overcome that intransigence in D.C." (7/2/2019, Pod Save America)
- "...focused on how do we improve the opportunity for Americans to be able to vote? You know, so it’s things like same-day registration, automatic registration when people are 18. It’s trying to mop up after the Supreme Court’s anti-voting opinions like the one I mentioned earlier, and I think that’s another place where the national Republican Party and their allies – I guess around the country – have worked really hard over the last 15 or 20 years to deny people the right to vote. And we should be on the side of making it easier for people to vote. And I think that’s where the American people are, too." (7/2/2019, Pod Save America)
Dan Pfeiffer: Another tool to repress the voices of the majority of this country is the filibuster, and as I understand, you’ve opposed getting rid of the filibuster, is that right?
Michael Bennet: I have.
Dan Pfeiffer: And why is that?
Michael Bennet: So I think first of all the history with the filibuster with the judges is instructive. It’s not dispositive, but it is instructive and that’s a history of Mitch McConnell winning and America losing and Democrats losing.
Dan Pfeiffer: What do you mean by that?
Michael Bennet: What I mean by that is that we entered into the preemptive retribution that led to our changing the rules first. So those guys wouldn’t allow President Obama to get any of his, not any, but a lot of his nominees through. He wouldn’t let in particular the DC circuit judges through, you’ll remember that. Chuck Hagel who was the Secretary of Defense nominee for President Obama and was a Republican Senator was filibustered by the Senate and the Secretary of Defense had never been filibustered in the history of America. So we changed rules. I didn’t believe that was the right thing to do at the time and I think the history has shown that it wasn’t because Donald Trump has been able to get more judges on the courts in the first two years than any president in American history. I believed it was wrong for us to filibuster Gorsuch. You know, I took a lot of beatings for that. But the reason why was that I thought we were playing right into Mitch McConnell’s hands because we gave McConnell the ability to blow the nuclear option on Gorsuch instead of holding it for the next one, when obviously he would have tried to do it again, but that was when it was 5-4, Roe v. Wade was at stake. It seemed to me that that’s when we would have wanted to organize the American people around that. And we didn’t do that. We didn’t. McConnell strategically waited and waited until the moment, you know, and we basically played into his hands over and over again, and now he’s getting exactly what he wanted. This is to say nothing of what he did to Merrick Garland, which you know is a totally different thing. So the result of this is we now have reduced what was for 200-years a bipartisan approach to advise and consent in the Senate, that every time we did it reinforced the independence of the judiciary. We’ve now infected the judiciary with the partisanship – that’s supposed to be hopefully temporary – of the legislative branch. So I think the history on this is bad, but beyond that I’ve got another argument, which is Mitch McConnell is the majority leader of the Senate. If we really are going to take the view that we should get rid of the filibuster while he’s the majority leader and again set the precedent for McConnell to change the rules, then we’re going to have to accept the Senate where he can privatize Social Security if he wants, where he can go after reproductive rights, go after voting rights, go after the environmental stuff, all of which they would have done between George Bush – when George Bush the son – was president, that would all be done. And I don’t think we should be sacrificing protections for the most vulnerable people in our country because we think we can’t for some reason make a compelling case to enough Americans to beat these Republicans. Our job should be to win the presidency and win a majority in the Senate, and hold a majority in the House and reset the table here politically. The American people are with us. Not with them. (7/2/2019, Pod Save America)
- “To fix our politics, we must overcome the forces trying to separate the American people from our government: special interests working to replace the public’s agenda with their own; politicians insulating themselves from accountability through gerrymandering and voter suppression; and foreign actors infiltrating our democracy. The Bennet Administration will make fighting this corruption and strengthening our democracy a top priority. Our plan aims to drive the money and special interests out of our politics, while bringing the American people back in. It builds on the historic H.R. 1 package that passed the House of Representatives earlier this year.” (Michael Bennet 2020)
- “We need to end political gerrymandering in Washington. The court today said they couldn’t do anything about it. We need to overturn Citizens United. The court was the one that gave us Citizens United. And the attack on voting rights in Shelby versus Holder is something we need to deal with.” (6/28/19, First Democratic Debate transcript in The New York Times)
Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
- “I believe strongly in constitutionally protected free speech and in the ability of individuals to exercise that right and remain committed to addressing First Amendment concerns. I am concerned, however, about elements of the BDS movement that disagree with Israel’s right to exist, and believe the U.S. government must stand against those efforts that seek to delegitimize Israel.” (6/28/2019, Haaretz)
- “We cannot rest until there is full equality for every American.” (6/19/19, Twitter)
Pride Month is a time to celebrate the immense progress that has been made while recommitting ourselves to the work that remains unfinished. We can't rest until every American has equal rights and opportunity. (6/4/2019, Facebook)
Senator Bennet is a cosponsor of The Restore Honor to Service Members Act. (6/27/2019, Gillibrand.senate.gov)
- "In signing this brief, we are sending a clear signal that every American - regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, or gender - should be guaranteed freedom from discrimination in all aspects of their lives. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will affirm this principle and set an important anti-discrimination precedent." (6/4/2018, bennet.senate.gov)
Securitization and Surveillance
SWISHER: How do you, running at this time ... Why hasn’t the government, the Congress, pushed back enough on this?
BENNET: Well, I think the guys that you mentioned, Warner and Burr, are trying to do it. I’m on that committee. And I can’t talk about the intelligence, but what I can say is we have learned a lot from what happened in 2016, that showed up in 2018 and they’re going to be back again in 2020. It’s not going to be the same old stuff. We don’t know what it’s going to be. We have to be prepared for it and the American people have to be informed about what this all looks like so they can recognize when it’s being passed around the internet.
SWISHER: Why does it have to be the American people have to recognize? It should be, how does Congress work with these tech companies to push this?
BENNET: Well, I think we should be doing that, too. I mean, there’s no ...
SWISHER: But are we doing that?
BENNET: I proposed last week that we ban foreign governments from buying advertising on these companies for political purposes. I think that the ideas that others have had to ban the hyper-targeting of political advertisements would be a welcome idea as well. We have to protect the democracy, and I think the big tech guys have to take responsibility for it. When I hear the Facebook guys say, “We’re just a platform,” and I see the damage that they have done to our political discourse, and I know that they’re not the government, there is not a First Amendment — as you’ve said and I’ve said — there’s not a First Amendment issue implicated here with Facebook. There’s a question for Facebook, whether they want to make a benevolent contribution to our society or they want to contribute to a malevolent, something that detracts from our society. And I think they should be focused on that. They’re an American company.
SWISHER: What can you make them do? As politicians?
BENNET: Well, I think that we can ... First of all, we could break them up if we decided we were going to do that. We could regulate them in other ways to make sure that they did what we need them to do, to not have hate speech on their platforms, to create rules of the road. If they’re not willing to police themselves, it’s certainly within our ability to do that. And we’ve done that with broadcasters, obviously, and these guys have benefited from rules that existed to give them a little bit of help with their launch. They’re now the biggest companies in America and they can surely withstand ...
SWISHER: This is Section 230.
BENNET: Yeah. They can surely withstand some rules of the road.
SWISHER: Do you think that will happen?
BENNET: I do think that’ll happen. I think the American people are tired of this. I think they’re tired of their kids feeling like their interaction with the world around them is provoking anxiety among them. I think people are sick and tired of hate speech running rampant on the Internet. And we’ve got competing values here. Obviously there is a balance that you have to strike, but there’s no reason we can’t do that. (7/17/2019, Vox)
SWISHER: I want to ask you, there’s been a lot of the candidates, some of the things you’ve been talking about, some of your issues have been varied, but Elizabeth Warren and others have talked about breaking up big tech and reining in big tech. I find big tech to be different than ... It’s Facebook and Google and then everybody else in many ways. How do you look at all that? How do you think about the power of that? Because it has infected, whether it’s the Russians, whether it’s addiction, whether it’s twitchiness, whether it’s the inability to hold a cogent thought for very long or make policy that isn’t impacted by it.
BENNET: First of all, your observation is an important one, which is these companies aren’t all the same. And we need to understand what each one does. I don’t know whether the right answer is to break them up. I think the FTC and the Justice Department absolutely should be investigating them. I think we should be thinking about whether our antitrust laws still make sense in a world where ... The traditional way of thinking about this is: Is the consumer harmed? Now we’re living in a world where consumers are getting free stuff, or from Amazon getting much, much cheaper stuff.
SWISHER: Convenience delivery.
BENNET: Or like your pal Scott Galloway talks about, he’s in the position of being able to buy a grocery store and cut the market cap of every other grocer in the country by 20 percent.
BENNET: Just because Amazon’s never expected to make a profit. Those are all huge issues that we should be looking at. Then there’s the privacy issues, which are massive. Nobody in ... not nobody. Almost nobody in America thinks they’ve made a trade with the tech companies to give up their data to be monetized for whatever a tech company wants it to do. The fact that I ... The app that has made the biggest difference in my life is Waze, because I now no longer sweat traffic. I just, I’m in it because I have to be there, but I know that Waze will get me out of it if it can get me out of it. Don’t need to worry about it. But I haven’t made a trade with those guys at Google for my data, and that’s a conversation ...
SWISHER: Well, you have.
BENNET: Well, it’s a conversation we need to have.
SWISHER: It’s interesting, I was at an event last night, someone was talking about that. And they said, “I like my free this, I like my free that.” And I said, “You’ve made a trade, you know. You’re trading your personal privacy for that,” and I said, “And you’re a cheap date because they’re making a fortune off of you and you’re getting a free map.”
BENNET: It’s true, it’s true. It’s kind of a trade of adhesion, not a real trade. (7/17/2019, Vox)
- "Today we remember the 49 innocent lives lost three years ago in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. Gun violence has forever changed the lives of far too many Americans – we must rise to the occasion and#HonorThemWithAction." (6/12/2019, Facebook)
Criminal Justice Reform
- On cosponsoring the First Step Act: “This bill is the result of principled bipartisan compromise—regrettably a rare sight in today’s Senate—that has earned broad support from both the law enforcement community and criminal justice reform advocates. These reforms are a first step in a longer effort to reduce mass incarceration and restore faith in our justice system.” (12/7/18, Bennet.senate.gov)
Bigoted Speech: Instances of Condemnation and/or Use
SWISHER: I wrote a column today because the appeals court decided that Donald Trump can’t block people on Twitter.
BENNET: Yeah, I saw that.
SWISHER: And I wrote a piece about how now Twitter and Donald Trump are married together. This week he initiated a bunch of presidential orders on Twitter, by tweet, which the people who were receiving them didn’t understand and had to say to a judge, “I don’t know what he means.”
If I had an answer for that, I’d be a billionaire.
SWISHER: What do you do in a governing environment like this?
BENNET: This is a serious issue. Twitter does not run itself by Twitter. Twitter does not run itself by tweet. Twitter is a business enterprise, and they have a board of directors that makes considered judgments about the continuing improvement of that enterprise. We have that responsibility for America, too, and we just can’t do it based on what’s happening in some social media storm on any given day. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be taking it in as information, and I do take it in as information.
SWISHER: But it is how things are happening now. People say we shouldn’t, but it actually is. Everything is borne out there. How do you switch back the governing to a less, to a much more standardized way?
BENNET: I’m not sure. But we’re going to have to figure out a way to do that, because we will not be able to govern if we keep doing what we’re doing, because we’ll continue to be immobilized. Look, there did not — it’s not obvious to me, this is not my specialty, it’s yours — not obvious to me why social media ... I wouldn’t say unvarnished, but why it couldn’t be a normative good in our democracy.
SWISHER: Yes, it could.
BENNET: That is, democratize our country, give more people the chance to participate, have leaders like me be more responsive to what people actually want for their families.
SWISHER: That was the idea.
BENNET: And that is not where we are. Where we are is in a downward spiral of vitriol and of attack politics and hyperpartisanship that is gratifying, I think, on a lot of levels and people can’t look away from it almost like an automobile accident or something. But that’s not ... We can’t run the country that way. (7/17/2019, Vox)
- "I don’t believe that there was this massive latent anti-immigrant sentiment in America when Donald Trump rode his escalator down from Trump Tower and called Mexicans rapists. I think it’s been created by Trump, Fox News, and vie to their everlasting shame, the Republican National Committee who have been running ads about MS-13 all over America." (7/2/2019, Pod Save America)
- “We have an obligation to our children to leave them a future where hatred is not accepted.” (Comments to American Jewish Committee, June 3, 2019)
- "The inhumane treatment of children at the border is outrageous and immoral. The Trump Administration’s failed policies have exacerbated the situation and threaten the health and well-being of vulnerable children and families. We cannot allow these dangerous policies to continue. Our Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act would help ensure children and families fleeing unspeakable violence and persecution are treated with the dignity, respect, and care they deserve. We need to pass this bill." (7/23/2019, Facebook)
Raiding homes, stoking fear, and tearing apart families is at war with who we are as a country – and does nothing to address the humanitarian crisis on the border or our broken immigration system. With the Trump Administration planning raids targeting thousands of immigrant families in major cities across the U.S. –including Denver – please remember that every person, regardless of status, has rights. My offices stand ready to help. (7/12/2019, Facebook)
Dan Pfeiffer: Let’s get to immigration. Do you have plans that you have put on immigration plan for this interview or do you stand by the original Gang of Eight?
Michael Bennet: I think we stand by the original Gang of Eight. I think that we have two distinct issues that we need to contend with right now: one is the immigration issues which represent the Gang of Eight, the other is the refugee crisis at the border. I don’t think we should be making immigration law based on the refugee crisis at the border. Trump is acting like we’re this pathetic, weak, country. You know, I mean, he’s not acting like we’re strong, we’re powerful, we’re wealthy and by the way humane. And if we were behaving that way we’d be spending money that’s necessary to create a set of conditions for people at the border, sending lawyers down there, making sure people got the stuff adjudicated. We’d be leading a conversation in the hemisphere with everybody, Canada and Latin America to say, what is it we’re going to do to all carry a share of the refugees that are coming from the northern triangle countries. We certainly would need to take our share, but I think there are other countries that would want to take theirs and over the long haul we need to figure out what we can do so that we don’t have failed states 1,500 miles from our border that are perpetually sending refugees to the southern border. On immigration, I think it would change. There things that have changed since 2013. But in the main, the deal that was struck there which is a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people that are undocumented, the most progressive DREAM Act ever conceived, much less passed in the Senate, the agricultural jobs provision, and $46 billion of border security is probably the deal that could get struck again. I mean Trump’s wall and all this stuff, we had real 21st century security that we were going to put in place that basically would allow us to see every single inch of the border and understand who would come in and overstay their visa and who needed to go back. And we have none of that because of the tyranny of the Freedom Caucus in the House.
Dan Pfeiffer: Would you be willing to, in a world in which we were actually negotiating on immigration now, would you be willing to fund Trump’s wall or some portion of as well in exchange for some of the elements of the –
Michael Bennet: I don’t think funding his wall makes any sense. Look we had in the bill that I was just talking about 350 miles of fence which he couldn’t he now calls steel slats. You know, he doesn’t care whether it’s concrete now or steel slats and he goes down there and stands next to two or three steel slats that are left over from what the Obama folks were doing. We could have had 350 miles of steel slats today if we had done the Gang of Eight bill, we doubled the number of border security agents on the border. Lindsey Graham used to say that those guys would be able to hold hands at the border because they’d be standing so close to each other. So when Trump says the Democrats are for open borders, that’s a lie. It’s demonstrably false because every single Democrat who is in the Senate when the when that bill was on the floor voted for it, which is more than I can say for the Republicans.
Dan Pfeiffer: Well, I think yes, it is a lie as most things Trump says is. He has found a new context for that lie after the debate on Thursday night when they asked, once again the 10 candidates on stage yourself included, which of you would support changing or eliminating the part of the law that makes crossing the border illegally a misdemeanor crime. So the proposal is would you turn into a civil offense? Nearly every person on that stage including all the people at the top of the polls raise their hands. You did not. Why?
Michael Bennet: I did not because I know that Barack Obama was able to enforce that law without separating children from their parents at the border and without giving the American people the sense that we believed in having open borders. And I think we can do that again. it’s Look, Trump has every, every reason to want to conflate the refugee crisis on the border with our immigration issues, and we shouldn’t fall into that trap in my view.
Dan Pfeiffer: Were you surprised to see so many people that raised their hands?
Michael Bennet: Yeah. I was actually, I was. (7/2/2019, Pod Save America)
Dan Pfeiffer:Trump is going to want to make immigration the subject to this election. It always is, it’s how he thinks he won in 2016. It’s what he credits for keeping the Senate in 2018. The challenge is comprehensive immigration reform is a good issue for Democrats. There is a majority of support including a lot of even a good chunk of Trump’s voters who support a version of comprehensive immigration form that you support and most Democrats support.
The problem often is that we either end up on the defensive about it or we’re talking about immigration reform and not talking about healthcare of the economy the things that matter to a lot of other voters. If you were the nominee, how do you navigate that terrain with Trump?
Michael Bennet: There’s not a defensive bone in my body on immigration. My landing place is the work I did in the 2013 Gang of Eight and I can defend that work in any county in this country. I think Republican or Democratic, people may disagree with it. They may not think it was a good idea, but I’m in no sense worried about being disqualified by it. And actually I think as you said, most people support it. If you if you look at the polling, the elements of the Gang of Eight bill poll much higher than anything else, including Trump’s wall. (7/2/2019, Pod Save America)
“When I see these kids at the border, I see my mom — because I know she sees herself because she was separated from her parents for years during the Holocaust in Poland. The president has turned the border of the United States into a symbol of nativist hostility.” (6/28/2019, Haaretz)
"Since President Trump announced his decision to end the DACA program last September, more than 21,000 Dreamers have lost their status. Beginning today, that number will rise at a dramatic rate, putting thousands more DACA recipients at risk. For months, I worked with a bipartisan group of senators to find a solution that protects Dreamers and keeps families together. We'll continue fighting in Congress for a legislative fix, but let's be clear: the onus falls on President Trump to fix the crisis he created." (3/5/19, Michael Bennet)
- “Raiding homes, stoking fear, and tearing apart families is the antithesis of what this country stands for and will do absolutely nothing to fix our broken immigration system.” (6/22/19, Twitter)
NO BAN Act
- Michael Bennet is a cosponsor of the NO BAN Act, S.1123.
“The President’s travel ban, no matter what version, is counter to who we are as Americans. This policy has always been a solution in search of a problem. The President needs to stop sowing religious hostility, division, and anger for political gain.” (6/26/2019, Michael Bennet)
- “Today’s Supreme Court order recognizes that the President’s travel ban unjustifiably harms people with a bona fide connection to the United States. The order does not change the fact that the travel ban continues to contradict our nation’s proud history of welcoming people, regardless of religion, and does nothing to bolster our national security.”(6/26/2017, bennet.senate.gov)
- “There must be space for discourse that allows for disagreement on policy issues, including policies of the Israeli government.” (6/28/2019, Haaretz)
- “President Trump is trying to disqualify Democrats by saying we are ‘anti-Israel’ — which not only is untrue, but politicizes and damages the United States’ relationship with Israel. Our support for Israel has always been bipartisan and should remain one of the areas in Washington where both parties can agree.” (6/28/2019, Haaretz)
- "I think Israel, I’ve said before, and I believe this, Israel’s the one essential country on the planet. I say that because of my family history during the Holocaust. That doesn’t mean Israel’s perfect, and where we have disagreements, we should be able to articulate those disagreements, and I do articulate the disagreements that I’ve had with Benjamin Netanyahu over the years." (6/21/2019, New York Times)
- “We stand behind Israel’s right to self-defense against rocket attacks by terror groups inside Gaza. Launching rocket attacks against innocent civilians is unacceptable and we mourn the lives lost. A cessation in violence is a necessary step toward de-escalation and stability.” (5/6/19, JTA)
“I have always had concerns about what the shape of Iran’s nuclear program could look like in 10 or 15 years, and I have long said that we need to think about a post-JCPOA world. Iran is a destabilizing force in the region: From Yemen to Syria to Lebanon, Iran foments terrorism and sows violence — activities that Republicans and Democrats agree would be all the more dangerous if backed by a nuclear weapon.” (6/28/2019, Haaretz)“Since taking office, President Trump has produced no strategy to counter Iran’s malevolent activities across the Middle East, all of which would be more dangerous if backed by a nuclear weapon. U.S. intelligence has assessed Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA, and the President has offered no alternative path forward to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities. The President’s abandonment of the agreement is reckless.” (5/8/18, Bennet.senate.gov)
U.S. Presence in the Arab World
- “We have to restore our democracy at home. The rest of the world is looking (to) us for leadership. We have a president who doesn’t believe in the rule of law, he doesn’t believe in freedom of the press, he doesn’t believe in an independent judiciary. He believes in the corruption that he’s brought to Washington, D.C.” (6/27/2019, The Colorado Sun)
- Senator Bennet voted for a resolution introduced by Majority Leader McConnell stating that, “the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.” (1/31/2019, The New York Times).
- "The Assad regime continues to conduct heinous attacks on the people of Syria, and it is clear deterrence has not worked. Having failed to articulate a strategy for the crisis in Syria, President Trump risks pulling the United States into a broader conflict with this military action. The decision to use military force against the Syrian government must be made in pursuit of a comprehensive objective and with authorization from Congress." (4/14/2018, Facebook)