Cory Booker

Cory Booker

Senator, New Jersey

Cory Booker has been a U.S. senator since 2013, sitting on the Foreign Relations Committee. Before becoming New Jersey’s first African American senator, he was the mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013, where criminal justice and drug sentencing reform were signature issues. 

Born in Washington, DC, and raised in Harrington Park, New Jersey, Booker completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Stanford University, was a Rhodes scholar, and earned his law degree from Yale University in 1997.

China

Booker calls China a “totalitarian regime,” criticizing both its human rights record and its trade practices. He says Beijing is seeking to divide the United States from its allies, and he denounces President Donald J. Trump’s trade war for deepening those divisions. 

  • Booker criticizes Chinese trade practices, pointing to intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers and accusing Beijing of “taking advantage” of American workers. “We need to fight them,” he says.
  • However, he opposes Trump’s “ridiculous” trade war, arguing that tariffs on U.S. allies such as Canada are undermining efforts to counter Beijing. 
  • He told CFR that he would make human rights a focus of the U.S. relationship with China.
  • He says he would address the detention camps and other human rights abuses in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, promising sanctions on the companies and individuals involved with the detention of Muslim Uighurs. 
  • In the Senate, he was a cosponsor of the 2019 Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which requires the State Department and intelligence agencies to report on the human rights situation in western China. 
  • He highlights his support for the autonomy of Hong Kong and says he will “insist China honor the commitments it has made” to the territory. 

Climate and Energy

Booker believes the challenge of climate change is “existential” and that it poses one of the two biggest geopolitical threats to the United States, along with nuclear proliferation. Like many Democratic candidates, he proposes a sweeping plan to transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels based on the Green New Deal framework. 

  • Booker’s climate plan would invest $3 trillion over the next decade, with the goal of achieving a carbon-neutral economy by 2045. This includes $400 billion in research and development funding for clean energy technologies and job-creating programs such as a Civilian Conservation Corps focused on wetlands restoration and forestry.
  • He proposes a carbon tax on emissions that includes a dividend to be paid back to Americans to compensate for any increased energy costs. His plan would end all fossil fuel subsidies, end drilling on public land, ban fracking entirely, and reinstate the U.S. crude oil export ban.
  • He says rejoining the Paris Agreement on climate, which Trump withdrew from, would be one of his first acts as president. He also promises immediate executive action on increasing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement, reestablishing vehicle emissions standards weakened under Trump, and many other issues.
  • His plan also emphasizes what he calls “environmental justice,” which includes investments in long-neglected communities to improve air and water quality and punish polluting companies. 
  • He told CFR that he would reduce the number of new coal-fired power plants around the world by “starving” them of funding and helping poorer nations develop alternate sources of energy.
  • In the Senate, he was an original cosponsor of the congressional Democrats’ Green New Deal resolution. He has also proposed the Climate Stewardship Act, which would allocate $25 billion to hire thousands of workers to plant billions of trees.

Counterterrorism

Booker is skeptical of the increased surveillance of U.S. citizens since the 9/11 attacks and emphasizes the threat of white supremacist terrorism. He argues Congress needs to have greater oversight of overseas counterterrorism operations.

  • Booker has supported the use of U.S. military force against Islamist militants in Syria and elsewhere but has questioned the legal justification for such operations. He says Congress needs to update authorizations dating to the immediate post-9/11 era.
  • He considers domestic white supremacist movements to be as large a threat as foreign terrorism. He has issued a plan to create a White House Office on Hate Crimes and White Supremacist Violence to coordinate efforts against hate groups at the local, state, and national levels.
  • As a senator, he sponsored legislation to combat violent extremism, including introducing the 2016 Countering Online Recruitment of Violent Extremists Act, which sought to direct more Department of Homeland Security resources to fighting online terrorist recruitment.
  • He has been skeptical of some post-9/11 surveillance programs, including the 2001 Patriot Act. He voted for the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which renewed the Patriot Act with some new restrictions on surveillance. 
  • He has expressed support for closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in 2013 he voted for an unsuccessful measure that would have allowed prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to be transferred more easily to U.S. territory.

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Booker has spoken out on the threat of foreign interference in U.S. elections, particularly by Russia, and blames an online campaign directed from Moscow for the outcome of the 2016 election. He proposes improvements to U.S. cyber infrastructure while also warning of surveillance abuses and the threat of hacking.

  • Booker has joined other Senate Democrats in backing proposed legislation to strengthen U.S. electoral systems. The 2019 bill would mandate paper ballots, limit internet access in voting machines, and give the Department of Homeland Security more money for cybersecurity upgrades.
  • He argues that Russian online troll operations determined the outcome of the 2016 election by successfully suppressing African American voter turnout in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
  • As a senator, he has spoken against the spread of facial recognition technology in law enforcement, arguing that it threatens civil liberties because such software shows a bias against African Americans. 
  • He criticizes “unjust consolidation” in the tech industry, among others, and calls for stronger antitrust enforcement in the sector. 
  • However, he won’t commit to breaking up tech giants such as Facebook and Google, as some other Democratic candidates have done, saying that determination should come in a “systematic” way through Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department investigations. 

Defense

Booker criticizes what he calls the “forever wars” in Afghanistan and elsewhere and argues that the United States’ overreliance on military action has made it less safe, but he is against setting a strict timetable for U.S. withdrawals. He calls for greater congressional oversight of overseas military missions.

  • Booker wants the United States to end its war in Afghanistan during his first term, but he declines to give a timeline for withdrawing troops, saying he would authorize a withdrawal only under conditions that lead to peace and security in the region.
  • He says relationships with U.S. allies need to be rebuilt and blames Trump for unilateral military action, such as in Syria, for alienating partners.
  • He says he will work closely with Congress on future military action, rather than relying on authorizations from 2001 and 2002 meant for fighting al-Qaeda. He has questioned the legal justification for U.S. operations in Syria and elsewhere.
  • He pledges to end what he calls “the endless wars” in more than a dozen countries where U.S. forces are operating, including Niger, Somalia, and Yemen.
  • He voted against the 2020 defense spending authorization legislation, calling its $750 billion price “too much to spend on defense” while important areas such as education and health care are underfunded. He has criticized the Pentagon for spending too much on outdated weapons systems.
  • In the Senate, he has proposed legislation to fill “critical gapsin veterans education programs by allowing veterans to take remedial courses and pass along some benefits to future dependents.
  • He proposes providing affordable housing for all veterans to end veteran homelessness. He supports additional funding for the Veterans Affairs health system and opposes any move towards privatizing it.
  • He opposes Trump’s ban on transgender personnel in the military. 

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Booker promises to put “strong diplomacy” at the center of his foreign policy, arguing that an overreliance on the military has made both the United States and the world less safe. 

  • Booker says that Trump’s withdrawals from major international agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal are an “abdication of American leadership” that threatens global peace. He promises to rejoin or renegotiate those agreements and “bring American values” to the world by encouraging democracy and human rights.
  • He told CFR that the United States needs to strengthen relations with its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies since Trump has undermined the alliance. 
  • He says that he would ensure a “fully functional diplomatic corps,” referring to Trump’s repeated attempts to slash the State Department’s budget and reduce its staff. While Trump has also tried to cut foreign aid, Booker says he would invest in “robust” international assistance. 
  • As a senator, Booker has argued that foreign aid is not only “morally right” but also serves U.S. interests by preventing “future problems.” As the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), he has advocated for increases in foreign-assistance spending. 

Economic Policy

Booker’s economic plans focus on reducing poverty, tackling concentrated wealth, and addressing growing levels of economic inequality. He proposes measures to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans and redistribute funds to the working class and historically marginalized communities. 

  • Booker says he would roll back the “toxic” 2017 tax cuts championed by Trump, which lowered individual income tax rates and cut the corporate rate from 35 to 21 percent. He says this has led to a “stunning” increase in the federal deficit and that taxes must be raised on the wealthiest to increase revenue.
  • He opposes plans for a wealth tax put forward by some other Democratic candidates, instead arguing for raising income taxes for top earners and taxing capital gains at the same rate as income. He wants a “massive” expansion of tax credits for the working class, including the Earned Income Tax Credit. 
  • He argues for greater corporate and financial regulation to address the growing concentration of economic power, including proposals to require firms to share profits with workers, limit consumer banking fees, and restrict stock buybacks, which he calls “stock manipulation.”
  • He advocates for so-called baby bonds, trust funds for children in low-income families aimed at addressing the wealth gap between white Americans and other groups, especially African Americans. 
  • He argues for making it easier for workers to form unions, raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and expanding workforce training, community colleges, and apprenticeships. He says his climate investments will create “millions of jobs.”

Immigration

Booker calls the Trump administration’s immigration approach “costly, cruel, and unnecessary” and pledges to take immediate executive action to reverse Trump’s detention and deportation policies. He would also seek to pass legislation to reform the U.S. immigration system and increase aid to address the “root causes” of migration. 

  • Booker would “on day one” end Trump’s zero-tolerance policy toward illegal border crossings, deprioritizing anyone who doesn’t pose a public safety risk, and stop all family separations. 
  • He also pledges to issue higher standards for detention facilities, dramatically decrease the number of detentions, and bar federal agencies from contracting with for-profit detention centers, as they currently do.
  • He’s a critic of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has called for a Senate investigation into solitary confinement and other abusive conditions at ICE detention facilities. However, he hasn’t backed calls to abolish the agency.
  • He would end immigration raids on schools, hospitals, and places of worship, scale back immigration enforcement in the interior of the country, and end Trump’s attempts to pressure so-called sanctuary cities, which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. 
  • He promises to reverse Trump’s efforts to restrict asylum, including the policy by which asylum seekers are forced to wait in Mexico while their cases are heard, commonly known as Remain in Mexico. He would reverse Trump’s travel ban on several predominantly Muslim countries and raise the refugee admissions cap from 30,000 to 110,000 per year.
  • He would stop all expansion of the border wall with Mexico and remove some existing sections he says are dividing communities.
  • He pledges to expand protections for Dreamers, undocumented residents who were brought to the country as children, as well as expand temporary protected status (TPS), a policy that allows those from unstable or unsafe countries to live and work in the United States.
  • He advocates for a path to citizenship for the United States’ approximately eleven million undocumented residents. 
  • He proposes an increase in foreign aid to Central America and other regions where large numbers of migrants are fleeing to the United States. He says he will appoint a State Department special envoy to lead his administration’s efforts to address the root causes of migration, which he identifies as corruption, violence, poverty, and climate change.

Middle East

Booker criticizes U.S. military intervention in Iraq and elsewhere for destabilizing the region, and warns against a “rush to war” with Iran. He calls for a return to the negotiating table with Iran, more pressure on Saudi Arabia over its human rights record, and continued support for Israel.

  • As a senator, Booker repeatedly voted for increased sanctions on Iran, and reluctantly supported the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, calling it “imperfect.” But he has harshly criticized Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, saying it was “an abdication of American leadership” that increases the odds of Iran developing nuclear weapons.
  • While he told CFR that he “strongly supports” a revived deal with Iran, he hasn’t committed to rejoining the 2015 deal, citing Iran’s breach of the enrichment limits set out under the agreement. 
  • He is a strong supporter of Israel and its right to defend itself against Palestinian militants. He backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
  • He was against Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move deeply opposed by Palestinians, but he says it would not be “practical or productive” to reverse the decision.
  • He is the only Democratic candidate to support legislation imposing penalties on companies participating in an international campaign to boycott Israel.
  • He has been ambivalent about U.S. intervention in Syria, warning against the use of force in 2013. He later expressed support for the campaign against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria, but said that using U.S. troops for any further goal, such as overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad, would be illegal. 
  • He opposed Trump’s 2017 and 2018 air strikes against Syrian regime targets, arguing that Congress had not authorized such a mission. He also criticized Trump’s plan to withdraw remaining U.S. troops in Syria as “reckless.”
  • He identifies the 2003 Iraq War as one of the United States’ biggest mistakes, arguing that the invasion has had “staggering” consequences in terms of both money and lives, making the region less secure and undermining U.S. foreign policy.
  • He believes the United States needs to “reexamine” its relationship with Saudi Arabia in light of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which he calls a humanitarian disaster. He has voted repeatedly to end U.S. arms sales to the kingdom.

North Korea

Booker says his goal as president would be the complete denuclearization of North Korea, which he says can only be achieved by working more closely with allies.

  • Booker told CFR that a nuclear North Korea is one of the United States’ greatest security threats and that only full denuclearization is acceptable.
  • He criticizes Trump’s diplomatic efforts in North Korea, including meeting with leader Kim Jong-un, for a lack of “planning, preparation, or forethought.” He says the president is legitimizing and embracing a violent dictator by offering concessions with little to show for them.
  • He says he would only agree to meet with Kim if Pyongyang makes significant concessions first, such as the dismantling of nuclear facilities.

Russia

Booker condemns Russia’s efforts to subvert the voting process in the United States and says that Trump has been weak in confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin. He says he would step up pressure on Moscow. 

  • Booker argues that Russian online troll operations determined the outcome of the 2016 election by successfully suppressing African American voter turnout in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He has backed proposed legislation to strengthen U.S. electoral systems against incursions from Russia and other adversaries.
  • He says Americans should be “outraged” that Trump accepted Putin’s denial of election hacking, which Booker calls an attack on democracy. 
  • He calls Russia “one of the worst actors on the global stage,” pointing to its aggression in Ukraine, intervention in Syria, undermining of democratic systems in Eastern Europe, and violence against domestic opposition.
  • He told CFR that Trump has “looked the other way” on Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, and he argues that Washington should step up sanctions on Russia and “mend our relationship” with NATO.
  • He joined other Senate Democrats in urging the Trump administration to stay in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, an agreement that limited nuclear missile stockpiles. Trump withdrew from the treaty in 2019, citing Russian violations.

Trade

Booker calls himself a “pro–fair trade Democrat,” arguing that trade deals must incorporate stronger protections for workers and the environment and include provisions for those negatively impacted by agreements. 

  • Booker strongly criticizes Chinese trade practices, pointing to intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers and accusing Beijing of “taking advantage” of American workers. “We need to fight them,” he says.
  • However, he opposes Trump’s “ridiculous” trade war, arguing that tariffs on U.S. allies such as Canada are undermining efforts to counter Beijing. 
  • He says the United States must work with Asian countries to reach a trade deal that “checks” China. He opposed President Barack Obama’s signature Asia-Pacific trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguing that its environmental and labor standards were too weak and that it lacked necessary provisions on currency manipulation and job retraining.
  • He says policymakers failed to account for how trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would hurt some workers and small businesses, and he argues that greater investment in job retraining and apprenticeships is necessary.
  • He opposes Trump’s renegotiated NAFTA deal, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, arguing it doesn’t do enough on labor and the environment. The deal has yet to be considered by Congress.

Venezuela and Latin America

Booker says that Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro should step down, but he takes issue with Trump’s willingness to consider using military force to back opposition leader Juan Guaido.  

  • Booker told CFR that Maduro “lacks the legitimacy to govern” but criticized U.S. attempts to install a new Venezuelan government, saying that it would be “repeating the mistakes of our dark history in the region.”
  • He supports sanctions against top regime officials and says the United States should apply diplomatic pressure with the end goal of a negotiated settlement leading to a transitional government and new elections. 
  • He has called on Trump to grant Venezuelans temporary protected status in the wake of the country’s massive humanitarian crisis, which would allow them to live and work in the United States. In 2019, he cosponsored bipartisan legislation to provide immediate TPS for Venezuelans.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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