Here are Hillary Clinton's Stances on 5 Major Issues You Care About

April 12th 2015

In a new video released on Sunday, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has announced her candidacy for the presidency of the United States. "I'm running for President," she states in the video. "Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times. But the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion. So you can do more to just get by. You can get ahead and stay ahead. Because when families are strong, America is strong. So I am hitting the road to earn your vote. Because it's your time and I hope you'll join me on this journey."

It had long been debated whether the former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady would run for president again (after a failed campaign in 2008); in terms of parsing down Hillary Clinton's policies, there is a long history to contend with since she and her husband have been national figures in the political spotlight for decades.

On many policy issues Clinton has evolved, although her opponents like to accuse her of merely oscillating with the political winds. Here are the Secretary's stances on five key issues that appeal to young voters: education, marijuana, immigration, climate change and LGBT rights.


1. Education

Ahead of her 2008 run, Clinton released what Inside Higher Ed called "by far the most detailed plan released by a candidate yet." The plan included ensuring that the maximum award given by Pell Grant increased with accordance to rising college costs, simplifying the application for financial aid, giving a $10,000 education award for those who participate in AmeriCorps, and providing millions in grants to four-year colleges and community colleges to improve completion rates, among other proposals. Clinton's 2008 plan also included plans for public universities to "set multi-year tuition and fee levels for each cohort of students at the beginning of each student's freshman year, so students and families will have a sense of how much their costs will be in the coming years." Clinton recently reiterated her stance on $10,000 for students who did a year of national service

As a Senator, Clinton introduced a variety of bills focused on education. One that she introduced three times was the Nontraditional Student Success Act, which was a financial aid awareness campaign. Clinton also introduced the Student Borrower Bill of Rights twice, which would "limit the total monthly payment amount for all such loans of a student borrower to not exceed too high a percentage determined by the student borrower's income. During her time in the senate, Clinton also aggressively supported Pell Grants.

In terms of student loans Clinton compared college loan debt to "an anchor tied to their feet dragging [students] down" in an October 2014 speech in Las Vegas.

Clinton also stated that she'd like students to be able to refinance their loans at a lower interest rate, though she has yet to release a comprehensive plan:

Former Secretary Clinton also endorsed President Obama's plan to make community college free for two years.

2. Marijuana

Clinton's stance on marijuana could be a major issue in the 2016 election, as support for legalization grows. A 2013 Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans favor legalization. For those ages 18-29 the percentage of people who support legalization is 67 percent.

In terms of Clinton's stance on the issue, advocates are skeptical.

"She is so politically pragmatic," Alan St. Pierre told CNN. St. Pierre is the director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "If she has to find herself running against a conservative Republican in 2016, I am fearful, from my own view here, that she is going to tack more to the middle. And the middle in this issue tends to tack more to the conservative side."

During the 2008 election Hillary Clinton was not in favor of decriminalization, which is a step below legalization. Since then, however, her views have become watered down and vague.

"I'm a big believer in acquiring evidence," Clinton told NPR affiliate KPCC in July of 2014. "And I think we should see what kind of results we get, both from medical marijuana and from recreational marijuana, before we make any far-reaching conclusions. We need more studies. We need more evidence. And then we can proceed."

She issued a similar refrain during a town hall discussion with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "On recreational, you know, states are the laboratories of democracy. We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now," Clinton said in reference to Colorado and Washington, which legalized marijuana "I want to wait and see what the evidence is."

In the same interview Clinton addressed the issue of medical marijuana saying: "At the risk of committing radical candor, I have to say I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don't think we've done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and who have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances. But I do think we need more research because we don't know how it interacts with other drugs." Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and in Washington, D.C.

The former Secretary of State, however, is not likely to try the drug herself. "I didn't do it when I was young, I'm not going to start now," she told Amanpour.

3. Immigration

In November of 2014, Hillary Clinton strongly backed President Obama's immigration executive order, calling the plan to protect nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants a "historic step."

"It’s really the lives of people who are in many instances longtime residents and workers who have not only raised children, but made contributions and in many, many instances, because of the way our system operates, paid taxes already," the former Secretary of State explained, shortly after the president issued the executive order.

In 2008 she also supported a pathway to citizenship. In a 2008 debate with then Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton stated:

"If we take what we know to be the realities that we confront -- 12 to 14 million people here -- what will we do with them? I hear the voices from the other side of the aisle. I hear the voices on TV and radio. And they are living in some other universe, talking about deporting people, rounding them up.

"I don't agree with that and I don't think it's practical. And therefore what we've got to do is to say, 'Come out of the shadows, we will register everyone, we will check, because if you have committed a crime in this country or the country you came from then you will not be able to stay. You will have to be deported.

"But the vast majority of the people who are here, we will give you a path to legalization if you meet the following conditions: pay a fine because you entered illegally, be willing to pay back taxes over time, try to learn English - and we have to help you do that because we've cut back on so many of our services - and then you wait in line."

4. The Environment

Hillary Clinton believes in climate change, and called for greater tax incentives and greater research for for green energy. Clinton also supports a carbon tax.

"The science of climate change is unforgiving, no matter what the deniers may say, sea levels are rising, ice caps are melting, storms, droughts and wildfires are wreaking havoc," Clinton reportedly said in a 2014 speech.

"The political challenges are also unforgiving," Clinton continued. "There is no getting around the fact the kind of ambitious response required to effectively combat climate change is going to be a tough sell at home and around the world at a time when so many countries including our own are grappling with slow growth and stretched budgets."

Where she wavers, however, is with natural gas. In a speech at the National Clean Energy Summit, put on by Sen. Harry Reid, Clinton stated that there was a value in exporting oil and natural gas. She also touted natural gas -- with the proper regulations -- as a stepping stone, or "bridge," to greener energy. She has a fraught history with fracking, which according to Mother Jones she pushed for globally during her time as Secretary of State. Clinton has also stayed mum on the Keystone Pipeline, which President Obama said he would veto.

5. LGBT Rights

Like President Obama, Hillary Clinton has evolved on LGBT rights -- an evolution chronicled in the New York Times. During her tenure at First Lady, her husband signed Don't Ask Don't Tell, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In 2013, Clinton appeared in a Human Rights Campaign video where she announced both her personal and political support for same-sex marriage.

And since her evolution on LGBT rights she has been an outspoken advocate. She recently tweeted her displeasure with Indiana's "religious freedom" law that would have allowed anti-gay discrimination. As Secretary of State she condemned Russia's anti-LGBT stance, and the treatment of its gay community. She also made a historic speech in Geneva on International Human Rights Day, where she declared that gay rights were human rights.

Not everyone, however, sees Clinton as a shining gay rights advocate: Mark Joseph Stern makes a compelling argument in Slate that she's close but still not quite there yet.

For more, watch this video where Clinton and Bernie Sanders sparred on gun laws:


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