John Delaney

John Delaney

Former representative, Maryland

John Delaney was most recently a three-term congressman from Maryland, first elected in 2012. He chose not to run for a fourth term in 2018 to concentrate on his presidential campaign, in which he has focused on adapting the U.S. economy to automation and globalization. 

A 1988 graduate of Georgetown Law, he went on to found and run two publicly traded companies. He was born in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey.

China

Delaney is concerned with China’s growing influence, calling the country the “biggest geopolitical challenge” facing the United States. He says it will take a concerted multilateral effort to counter China’s rise, which President Donald J. Trump has made more difficult. 

  • Delaney decries China’s “predatory and expansionist agenda,” pointing to Beijing’s theft of intellectual property. While he says Trump is right to push back on China, Delaney calls the president’s trade war “wrong and reckless.” 
  • He told CFR that he would rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a twelve-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal, on his first day in office. He says the TPP, from which Trump withdrew, would strengthen U.S. alliances in Asia and pressure Beijing to change its trade practices.
  • He also promises to increase federal investment in research and development to keep pace with China’s technological progress. 
  • He says Washington must push back on the Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese effort to expand its investment and influence in Asia and elsewhere. He would increase U.S. aid and investment around the world to win allies and counter China.
  • He says Washington must also maintain a strong military posture in Asia and continue freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea.
  • He promises to prioritize human rights in his relationship with China, including the plight of the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority. He would also “voice strong support” for Hong Kong’s autonomy. 

Climate and Energy

While skeptical of some of the climate plans put forward by other Democrats, Delaney has proposed a suite of federal policies to quickly transition the U.S. economy to clean energy, including a carbon tax. 

  • Delaney’s $4 trillion climate plan seeks to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and keep planetary warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. The plan is centered on a tax on emissions that would be increased each year, with the proceeds returned to American citizens as a dividend.
  • His plan would also spend $5 billion per year on technologies that pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, paid for by eliminating subsidies on fossil fuels, and spend $20 billion on a “carbon throughway” to transfer captured carbon across the country. He would separately devote five times the current spending levels to clean-energy research through the Department of Energy. 
  • He would create a “climate corps” as part of a national service program that would provide jobs in low-income and rural communities working on clean-energy projects. 
  • He promises to rejoin the Paris Agreement, from which Trump withdrew, on his first day in office and to pursue stronger climate targets. 
  • He supports the expansion of nuclear power. He says he wouldn’t end fossil fuel exports, nor ban fracking, but that he would apply “strong regulations to make sure it’s done safely.”
  • He told CFR that U.S. leadership is necessary to help developing nations transition to cleaner but more expensive green energy and infrastructure.
  • He says that the Green New Deal framework championed by many Democrats is “not the best way forward.”

Counterterrorism

Delaney has supported U.S. counterterrorism missions overseas and called for improving conditions in countries where terrorists are recruited.

  • Delaney has argued that foreign aid is a central plank of fighting terrorism because economic development alleviates the conditions that produce terrorist recruits. 
  • He highlights Iran’s “complicity” in global terrorist activities and says the United States must take “strong measures” to respond.
  • He told CFR that U.S. missions in Iraq and Afghanistan must focus on ending the threat of terrorism in the region. He also said fighting terrorism is an avenue for cooperating more closely with Russia.
  • He introduced legislation to create the position of “hostage czar” in the White House after the accidental killing of hostages held by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, including an American citizen, in a U.S. drone strike.

Cybersecurity and Digital Policy

Delaney has put cybersecurity, data privacy, and artificial intelligence (AI) at the center of his campaign, arguing for new federal authorities and expanded privacy laws to protect consumers from corporations and foreign interference.

  • Delaney would create a cabinet-level department of cybersecurity to coordinate all U.S. efforts to protect the country from foreign and domestic cyberattacks. The department would be responsible for stopping election interference, potentially going on the offensive to block potential hackers such as Russia.
  • He would also develop a national AI strategy that would coordinate the federal government’s response to rapidly changing technologies that he says could put fifty-four million workers out of their jobs by 2030.
  • This strategy would invest in AI defense capabilities and develop federal standards for data privacy, including rules against “intrusive” practices by tech companies such as facial-recognition software.
  • He proposes federal digital privacy legislation that would include greater transparency requirements for tech products, greater consumer control over personal data, and stronger protections for children using technology. 
  • He would “significantly increase” regulation of major Silicon Valley companies, and he favors more stringent application of antitrust laws. 

Defense

Delaney emphasizes the need for “a very strong military” to project American influence around the world, and he calls on Congress to update the authorizations currently used to justify a wide range of U.S. interventions abroad. 

  • Delaney doesn’t commit to cutting the U.S. defense budget, arguing that spending levels should be determined by need. 
  • He criticizes the current congressional authorizations for overseas military force, which date back to the immediate post-9/11 period, for being open-ended and overly broad. He promises to direct Congress to send him a new authorization during his first hundred days. 
  • He told CFR that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan has become “muddled” and needs to be clarified by Congress. He supports “dramatically reducing” the number of U.S. troops there, as well as in Iraq and Syria, while keeping a small group to train local security forces.
  • He believes the United States needs an artificial-intelligence defense strategy, citing the European Union and China as already having one in place.
  • He sees trade deals such as the TPP as critical to bolstering U.S. military influence around the world. He says “no one was more upset” about Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP than the military.

Diplomacy and Foreign Aid

Delaney says that his foreign policy views prioritize “global engagement, diplomatically and economically,” and he pledges to reinvigorate ties with U.S. allies and multilateral institutions.

  • Delaney promises a “commitment to diplomacy as a first resort” and vows to “reinforce multilateral institutions” and “reaffirm support for alliances.”
  • He told CFR that U.S. support for multilateral institutions—such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—has been “our greatest foreign policy accomplishment since World War II.”
  • He says Trump has “hollowed out” the State Department and that he would “restore the tools” of diplomacy.
  • He promises to rejoin major global agreements that Trump withdrew from, including the Iran nuclear agreement, Paris climate accord, and TPP. 
  • He advocates for increased foreign assistance for food security, global health, education, and women’s rights. He has argued that foreign aid is a central plank of fighting terrorism, because economic development alleviates the conditions that produce terrorist recruits.

Economic Policy

Delaney speaks often about the effects of automation and globalization on American workers, arguing for national tax, infrastructure, and education policies to help those left behind to better compete.

  • Delaney proposes a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would create new funds for climate resilience, roads, schools, rural internet, and water infrastructure.
  • He would pay for this in part by raising the corporate tax rate to 27 percent, after Trump’s 2017 tax reform lowered it to 21 percent, and raising the gasoline tax. He would also double the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • He proposes increasing investment in places left behind by globalization, including by directing government contracting to economically struggling places, creating tax incentives for distressed communities, and guaranteeing at least two years of free community college or vocational training.
  • He has also introduced legislation to allow for both public and private student debt to be discharged in bankruptcy, like other forms of debt.
  • He supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and indexing it to inflation, and he backs a federal paid family leave program.
  • He wants to increase antitrust enforcement, saying he would instruct agencies to undo company mergers that have already taken place if appropriate.
  • He would implement a mandatory national service program that would require individuals to serve between one and two years in the military, a community service program, an apprenticeship program, or his proposed climate corps program.

Immigration

Delaney touts his own immigrant roots, arguing that immigration is a net positive for the United States. He backs a comprehensive immigration reform deal.

  • He says he would push for a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform, along the lines of the 2013 deal that passed in the Senate but failed in the House of Representatives.
  • That deal, like Delaney’s proposal, combined increased border security with a pathway to citizenship for the country’s estimated eleven million undocumented residents. Delaney would also increase visas for guest workers and skilled immigrants.
  • He supports legislation to make permanent the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a policy under President Barack Obama that protected undocumented residents brought to the country as children from deportation. 
  • He doesn’t call expressly for a wall to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border, but says “fencing,” more security personnel, and increased surveillance technologies are necessary.
  • He has condemned the conditions at migrant detention centers, particularly those for children. 
  • He would increase the cap on refugee admissions, which Trump has cut to record low numbers.
  • He proposes a “Plan Central America” to fight corruption and violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which he says are driving the migration crisis.

Middle East

Delaney calls himself a strong supporter of Israel and has reservations about the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. He also calls for a return to diplomacy with Iran.

  • Delaney describes Israel as “one of our most important and enduring allies,” telling CFR that he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that it is up to the parties to negotiate peace.
  • He says Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was poorly planned but that he wouldn’t move it back
  • He calls Iran “one of the most dangerous and destabilizing regimes in the world.” As a member of Congress, he voted for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which Trump withdrew. He says he would rejoin the deal but would insist on tougher terms and a longer duration.
  • He says he wouldn’t hesitate to use military force against Iran if it was shown to have attacked a U.S. oil tanker or other U.S. property.
  • He told CFR that the United States should “reset” its relations with Saudi Arabia over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He would refuse high-level visits with the kingdom and end all U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, though he wouldn’t cut all ties.
  • He calls the 2003 invasion of Iraq “the most disastrous foreign policy action of the United States since World War II.” 
  • He told CFR he would keep troops in Iraq and Syria to fight terrorism and support the Kurds, who have fought alongside the United States in the region.

North Korea

Delaney supports direct diplomacy with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un with the goal of full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, though he has criticized Trump’s approach.

  • Delaney says he would meet with Kim and that he approves of Trump’s willingness to do so. However, he says Trump’s efforts were ultimately just “pomp and circumstance” and a “missed opportunity.”
  • He says any progress would be incremental and vows not to lessen sanctions on North Korea unless the regime shows “verifiable progress” on denuclearization and human rights.
  • He says Trump has made the task harder by alienating Japan and South Korea, which host tens of thousands of U.S. troops. Delaney would “put pressure” on China to do more to influence Kim.

Russia

Delaney promises to respond more strongly to what he calls Moscow’s attempts to undermine U.S. democracy and alliances abroad, and he criticizes Trump for “empowering Putin.”

  • Delaney calls Russia an “adversary” but not an “enemy,” saying that Washington and Moscow need to work together on nuclear weapons, terrorism, and other issues. 
  • He says Trump has “weakened” the United States by failing to stand up to Russia’s interference in U.S. elections and other provocative actions.
  • He promises to protect the United States from future Russian cyberattacks by creating a department of cybersecurity, which would be capable of both offensive and defensive action in response.
  • He says he would prioritize arms-control talks with Moscow, pledging to rejoin the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, from which Trump withdrew, and work to keep the New START arms-reduction treaty from expiring in 2021.
  • He calls Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea “unacceptable” and told CFR that Trump has “walked away” from the challenge. He promises military aid to Ukraine and new sanctions on Russian officials.
  • He says he will “recommit” to European allies, especially NATO members, to present Russia with a unified front.

Trade

Unlike much of the rest of the Democratic field, Delaney champions global trade deals, arguing that they boost the U.S. economy and help strengthen U.S. alliances and global leadership. He says that their downsides should be addressed not with “isolationism” but through domestic investment in jobs and infrastructure.

  • Delaney says that global trade deals benefit the United States both economically and geopolitically, and he dismisses what he calls the “isolationism” of those who would reject U.S.-led trade agreements.
  • He criticizes some Chinese trade practices, especially intellectual-property theft, but says Trump’s trade war is “wrong and reckless.” He says tariffs are “bad for workers, bad for business, and bad for consumers.”
  • He told CFR that he would instead rejoin the TPP, a twelve-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal, on his first day in office. He says the TPP, from which Trump withdrew, would strengthen U.S. alliances in Asia and pressure Beijing to change its trade practices.
  • He argues that trade deals bolster U.S. military influence around the world and says “no one was more upset” about Trump’s withdrawal from the TPP than the military. 
  • He acknowledges that some trade deals, including the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have cost some U.S. jobs, but says the answer is to better distribute the benefits of trade and make massive investments in domestic infrastructure.
  • He says debating NAFTA is “a waste of time” because the downsides of the deal are already “baked in the cake,” but he says he would support Trump’s updated version, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which has yet to be considered by Congress.

Venezuela and Latin America

Delaney supports Trump’s recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela, even while cautioning against U.S. intervention.

  • In Venezuela, Delaney calls Nicolas Maduro’s government “illegitimate” and backs Trump’s decision to recognize Guaido as the rightful interim president.
  • He told CFR that, while he supports diplomatic efforts, including sanctions, to press Maduro to step down, he does not favor any “direct intervention” in Venezuela’s internal power struggles. 
  • He promises “substantial humanitarian support” through the U.S. Agency for International Development and regional organizations such as the Organization of American States.
  • Elsewhere in the region, he proposes a “Plan Central America” to fight corruption and violence in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, which he says are driving the migration crisis.

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

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