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WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Wednesday the members of committees that will join forces to shape policy and initiatives ahead of the Democratic convention.

Members of the groups include prominent Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Pramila Jayapal and former Secretary of State John Kerry. The groups will focus on creating initiatives addressing climate change, criminal justice reform, the economy, education, health care and immigration. Members include more moderate Democrats in line with Biden’s policy stances and leading progressives who share many of the same views as Sanders.

The groups will meet ahead of the Democratic National Convention starting August 17 to make recommendations on policies for the DNC Platform Committee and to Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. 

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“A united party is key to defeating Donald Trump this November and moving our country forward through an unprecedented crisis,” Biden said in a statement. “The work of the task forces will be essential to identifying ways to build on our progress and not simply turn the clock back to a time before Donald Trump, but transform our country.“

Sanders in a statement praised Biden for “working together with my campaign to assemble a group of leading thinkers and activists who can and will unify our party in a transformational and progressive direction.”

Biden and Sanders first announced they were creating these joint groups on April 13 when Sanders endorsed Biden. A coalition of progressive groups, including the Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats and NextGen America, sent a letter to Biden on April 8, the day that Sanders dropped out, urging the former vice president to create working groups in conjunction with Sanders.

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Several of those groups on Wednesday praised Biden’s decision to include progressive representatives and to act as co-chairs.

“By announcing these working groups helmed by youth vote heroes like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Varshini Prakash, and Abdul El-Sayed, Joe Biden is showing that a vote for him in November is a vote to have young experts and young voices at the table in the White House,” said NextGen America’s Executive Director Ben Wessel in a statement.

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Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats, said in a statement that “Biden appointing trusted leaders from the progressive movement will give voice to millions of voters and volunteers who have put so much into our democracy to transform America.

However, Rojas noted that there is still more that Biden must do “to earn the trust of progressives, Latinx, and younger voters,” but that “this is a major step in the right direction.”

“The task forces are just one part of the fight ahead to usher in a new generation of leaders and defeat Trump,” Rojas said. “We look forward to continuing to hold Joe Biden accountable in enacting solutions as big as the problems we face.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who has been a key progressive figure since being elected in 2018, is serving as the co-chair of the Climate policy group. She made the decision to join the group with members of the Climate Justice community, a spokesperson for her office said.

“She believes the movement will only be successful if we continue to apply pressure both inside and outside the system,” the spokesperson said. “This is just one element of the broader fight for just policies.”

The policy groups also includes university professors, key advocates and union leaders for education, health care and immigration, in addition to several other lawmakers.

Some of the key members of the groups include, Kerry, who is also a co-chair for the climate change policy group, Chiraag Bains, director of legal strategies Demos, a liberal think tank; Reps. Karen Bass and Lucille Roybal-Allard of California, Bobby Scott of Virginia, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Marcia Fudge of Ohio.

Also part of the team are Heather Gautney, a sociology professor who served as Sanders’ national director; Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center; former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy; and Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

Contributing: Joey Garrison

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Biden: AOC, other Sanders allies to help shape former VP’s policy

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