New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is one of several women to announce she’s running to be the Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential election. And in true New York fashion, she shared the news for the first time on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:
Originally hailing from Albany, New York, Gillibrand attended UCLA law school before working as an attorney and later joining the world of politics. Against the advice of many, in 2006, she decided to run for the House of Representatives in a Republican district in upstate New York; she ended up winning against a four-term incumbent, becoming the first Democrat to represent the district in almost 30 years. In 2009, Gillibrand was appointed to a Senate seat after then-Senator Hillary Clinton become Secretary of State. At the time, she was the youngest member of the U.S. Senate.
In recent years, she’s gained recognition as an advocate for sexual assault survivors and being staunchly anti-Trump. (She’s voted against his Cabinet appointees more than any other senator.) Below, ELLE.com breaks down where Gillibrand stands on the nine issues voters cared about most going into the midterm elections.
Gillibrand originally ran for her House seat in New York on the expansion of Medicare, and her views haven’t wavered since. In 2017, she supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill. She said in a statement, “Under the health care system we have now, too many insurance companies continue to value their profits more than they value the people they are supposed to be helping. It’s time for something better.”
In May, she expanded a bit on how she envisions the country getting to a single-payer system. She said, “I do believe Medicare for All is the right solution for health care. I think the quickest way to get there, to get to single-payer, to get to health care as a right and not a privilege is to let people buy in over a four- or five-year transition period. Allow Medicare to be that not-for-profit public option to create competition with the insurance industries… I would let anybody buy in starting on day one. You’d have to fix Medicare first, make sure the reimbursement rates actually reflect costs. But that is how you do it, through competition and through choice, letting people choose it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if within five years, 90 percent of Americans actually bought in, and then it’s a very small leap to make it an earned benefit just like social security, so it’s there no matter what. That’s how you make it universal, affordable, and permanent.”
She also helped pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which provides treatment to responders and survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks. Those exposed to the disaster now receive health monitoring and services for 9/11-related health problems until 2090, according to the City of New York website.
Gillibrand has taken a pretty liberal economic stance. This past summer, she told a crowd that she would support a tax on financial transactions in the stock market, which the New York Times wrote “once would have been unthinkable for a senator from New York, the epicenter of Wall Street money and influence, to back a tax so targeted at her own constituents.”
She also opposed the bank bailouts after the financial crisis in 2008, she’s endorsed a federal jobs guarantee, and she’s supported training people who lose jobs to automation. According to the Times, she was the first senator to introduce legislation that would require post offices to have retail banking services, in order to “curb the predatory payday loan industry.”
In June, Gillibrand detailed her plan for debt-free college, titled her National Public Service plan, on her Medium page. She explains that anyone who commits to working one year in a public service job would get tax-free financial assistance to attend two years of public or community college tuition-free—and those who serve two years in a public service job could attend for four years.
“Already have an undergraduate degree or don’t want to go to college?” she writes. “You can still participate in the program and use the equivalent tax-free financial assistance toward the cost of getting a graduate degree, to pay down existing student debt, to participate in an accredited job-training program like an apprenticeship, to start a business, or to purchase a home.”
Gillibrand has had to reckon with past comments she made on immigration back when she was representing upstate New York. According to MSNBC, she wanted to make English the official language of the United States, used the phrase “illegal aliens” when talking about undocumented immigrants, and opposed amnesty for those immigrants.
NBC reports that in 2006 her campaign website “called for additional border security funding to staff more personnel ‘to catch illegal immigrants, human traffickers, and drug smugglers’ and supported additional funding to hire more immigration judges and expand detention capabilities.” She opposed New York state giving undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses, and she supported legislation to make deportation easier. She then started to move to the left on the issue in early 2009, once she was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
She has since said she’s “embarrassed” by her previous stance, and told CNN, “I did not think about suffering in other people’s lives… I listened and I realized that things I had said were wrong. I was not caring about others.” Now, she is calling to abolish ICE, and she co-sponsored the DREAM Act.
How Women Are Treated in the U.S.
The Senator might be the most well-known for her work advancing women’s rights, specifically when it comes to supporting survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment. She has been labeled the “#MeToo Senator” and continues to fight the issues of sexual assault in the military and on college campuses.
In 2018, on the heels of the #MeToo movement, Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told GQ, “Kirsten’s willingness to stand up and speak truth to power on behalf of women who have been harassed and assaulted is so much a part of who she is and the fact that the country is now having that conversation is something that she should get credit for, because she’s part of what helped catalyze it.”
Gillibrand was also the first Senate Democrat to call for then-Senator Al Franken, her friend and former squash partner, to step down after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct came out against him.
She also said that President Bill Clinton should have stepped down due to his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, even though she’s long been supported by the Clintons. In response, Philippe Reines, a former advisor to Hillary Clinton, wrote on Twitter, “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons’ endorsements, money, and seat. Hypocrite.”
As of February, Gillibrand also reintroduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would guarantee 12 weeks of partially paid leave for people who have a new child, are taking care of a family member with a serious health issue, or are dealing with one themselves. Those workers would be able to earn up to 66 percent of their monthly earnings, up to a maximum, according to Huffington Post.
And in May, Gillibrand detailed her plans about reproductive rights and abortion rights in two posts on her Medium page. (You can read them here and here.) She wrote, “Right now, entirely too much of the conversation about what women can do with our own bodies is being driven by a group of right-wing male politicians. It’s time for that conversation to be led by the actual experts: women and doctors… That is why we must come together to declare, loud and clear, that reproductive rights are human rights. They are civil rights. And they are nonnegotiable.”
Her plan includes pledging to appoint judges to courts, including the Supreme Court, who will uphold Roe v. Wade. She also supports codifying Roe v. Wade into law, ending the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from being used to pay for most abortions, and repealing Trump’s gag rule, which would prohibit health care providers who receive Title X funding from giving referrals for abortions. She would also work to guarantee access to reproductive health care in all 50 states, including ensuring private insurance covers abortion and that federal law makes it impossible for states to criminalize reproductive health care providers. Gillibrand also supports expanding access to sex education and birth control, protecting funding for Planned Parenthood, and investing in Title X family planning funding.
During Gillibrand’s days serving upstate New York in Congress, she received an A from the National Rifle Association as someone who spoke about protecting gun rights. She has since shifted her views more toward the left and in favor of gun regulation, though she still supports the Second Amendment.
Recently, she spoke with 60 Minutes about the shift, saying, “After I got appointed, I went down to Brooklyn to meet with families who had suffered from gun violence in their communities. And you immediately experience the feeling that I couldn’t have been more wrong. You know, I only had the lens of upstate New York.”
She has now spoken out against the NRA and supports universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
Besides supporting a tax on financial transactions in the stock market (read more about that in the Economy section, above), Gillibrand’s website also says she’s introduced legislation that gives property tax relief to New York homeowners, she’s supported giving tax benefits to companies that provide on-site child care, and she’s created legislation that would give tax credits to small businesses that create jobs.
The Senator has shown support for United States’ relationship with Israel and has supported pulling troops out of Afghanistan. In 2018, after President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about denuclearization, Gillibrand said, “I’m very grateful that President Trump is trying diplomacy as oppose to military action because that’s was what his first take was. So, I am grateful that he is making the effort to try diplomacy and to try to bring people together towards a peaceful resolution.”
Income and Wealth Distribution
Gillibrand has long supported paid family leave and ending the wage gap, with Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, telling Refinery29, “Kirsten really took these issues of family and workplace for women and lifted them up in such a way that they are now the centerpiece of so many conversations in Washington. She deserves a lot of credit for really taking these issues…and putting a big spotlight on them, and saying this is the time, we have to get serious about this. This is not some side issue. This is actually the cornerstone of economic opportunity for American families.” She’s also for a $15 minimum wage.
The New York Times has also reported that she supports strengthening unions and cutting interest rates for “indebted student-loan borrowers.”
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Confirmation
Gillibrand voted against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and she delivered an emotional speech on the Senate floor, criticizing the response to the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.
In the speech, which she gave the day before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford publicly testified, she said, “The response to these allegations by our colleagues are so disappointing… Mr. President, the question I have, that I know you have, do we value women in this country? Do we value women in this country? Do we listen to women when they tell us about sexual trauma? Do we listen to their stories about how their lives have been forever scarred? Do we take their claims seriously or do we just disbelieve them as a matter of course?”
She continued, “This process is sending the worst possible message to girls—and boys—everywhere. It’s telling American women that your voice doesn’t matter. It’s telling survivors everywhere that your experiences don’t count, they’re not important, and they are not to be believed. We are saying that women are worth less than a man’s promotion.”
And one more thing…
…or maybe a few more things. There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Gillibrand, whether you want to focus on some of her changing positions (another example is that while she rejects corporate PAC money now, she was receiving more donations from Goldman Sachs than any other Democratic incumbent in 2012) or her work supporting women and LGBTQ people (she has her own PAC intended to help more women get into politics and she worked to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”).
She’s also had her own scuffle with President Trump, who tweeted in late 2017, “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”
Gillibrand responded by writing, “You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office.”