Monday, June 27

Progressives Uprising Marks Vital Moment for Democrats

(CNN) — Progressives in Congress are finally armed with the influence they have yearned for for years and feel that this is an existential moment for their movement.

In the fight with Democratic Party moderates over President Joe Biden’s $ 4 trillion agenda, the left’s long-standing dreams of radical reform most clearly embodied in the White House nominations of the independent senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders, are bolstered by the new liberal power to make demands on Capitol Hill.

For the first time in decades, calls from progressives for vastly expanded health care, free pre-kindergarten and community colleges, as well as cheaper prescription drugs, are not just food for desperate activist campaigns. They are tantalizingly close to reality.

Thus, the current stalemate between progressive House Democrats and centrist lawmakers like Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona adds to more than the usual intraparty feud in Washington. It can be a defining confrontation that will determine the future of liberal politics in a short window of opportunity for generational change.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the dominance that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flaunted over her own caucus has so far left her unable to resolve a confrontation that baffles outsiders, as it could destroy the entire agenda. Biden’s domestic campaign, and with it, the Democrats’ quest to maintain power in 2022 and beyond.

House progressives insisted Tuesday on their refusal to pass Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill unless moderate Senate Democrats sign a $ 3.5 bill. trillions to transform the economy in favor of American workers.

“We will hold the line and vote against,” Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib said of the infrastructure bill on Twitter, adopting a strategy that could crush Biden’s hopes of going to the midterm elections with little law. common approved by Democrats and Republicans.

But Manchin says he will never vote for a $ 3.5 trillion behemoth that he doubts is necessary and that concerns will hurt his coal-producing state with climate change reforms. He also objects to being forced by the progressive Democrats in the House of Representatives.

“Holding the other hostage is not fair or right. It is not good for the country,” Manchin said after visiting the White House, knowing that in a 50-50 Senate the fate of the bill could be in his hands.

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In the recent past, political realities may have already caused progressives to bow for the greater good of Biden’s agenda, especially given the president’s desperate need for a victory after a political slump. But a growing sense of impatience on the Democratic base and the unity of the progressive caucus at a time when Pelosi lacks a dominant majority means the left is emboldened. The sense that a vital moment for the movement is approaching is also compounded by recent setbacks, such as a Senate ruling that immigration reform cannot be part of the spending bill and the conservative Supreme Court allowing a law. that severely limits abortion in Texas.

The consequences of power

Unlike some occasions in the past, progressives on Capitol Hill have benefited from consistent leadership in this campaign and have not been represented solely by their highest-profile members, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a An effective communicator who also sparks waves of controversy.

Washington Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, has kept channels open with the Democratic leadership of the House and the White House, and has avoided unamendable discussions with more moderate House members who fear that the Failure of the infrastructure bill may cost in November 2022.

In a private conference call from the Progressive Caucus on Tuesday, Jayapal backed the idea of ​​waiting for a fully drafted Senate reconciliation spending bill and commitments that there will be no amendments before agreeing to vote for infrastructure, a source told Annie Grayer. from CNN. Some progressives want the spending bill to pass the Senate before moving forward.

But at some point, progressives may have to face the consequences of their new power within the broader Democratic caucus. If their demands turn out to be impossible for the Senate, Biden and Pelosi to meet, then what? Are members willing to effectively set Biden’s entire national agenda on fire? Will they accept a minor spending bill if Manchin and Sinema sign knowing it could still bring huge benefits to their constituents?

The bigger question is whether progressives are willing to mortally wound the Biden presidency at a time when Republicans are preparing their midterm attack lines and former President Donald Trump is planning what appears to be an attempt to restore his undemocratic rule in the White House.

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Their dilemma is one that all political movements face sooner or later: whether to dilute their ideals in favor of pragmatic success or stand firm on principles, even if that destroys the hope of progressive success.

Conventional wisdom in Washington suggests that divisions between warring factions always look most intense in the hours leading up to a resolution, as each side exerts maximum influence to extract all the concessions it can.

But unless progressives in the House of Representatives and moderates in the Senate, some of whom spent Tuesday traveling between the Capitol and the White House, are bragging, a resolution still seems far away as the deadline for the vote planned for Thursday on the infrastructure bill.

In fact, Rep. Mark Pocan, a progressive from Wisconsin, told CNN’s Jake Tapper: “I don’t think there will be a vote on Thursday. We could do this next week.”

The culmination of Bernie Sanders’ career

One way to understand the spending bill that has been adopted by Biden is as the culmination of Sanders’ lifelong work and two insurgent but surprisingly successful campaigns.

For decades, the godfather of the modern progressive movement toiled in the political desert as Democrats rallied behind the centrist liberalism of the Bill Clinton and Barack Obama years. There were victories for progressives (the Affordable Care Act, for example, brought America closer to the principle of universal health care), but it fell short of the single-payer system that many on the left support. Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion covid aid bill earlier this year also won strong support from his former Democratic presidential rival as a major blow against poverty.

Sanders’ presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 electrified progressives, either pushing Democrats to the left or taking advantage of a new audience more receptive to the ideas of democratic socialists.

The move was not enough for Sanders to win the Democratic nomination: the victories of Biden and 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton demonstrated that while it is a force, even now the left lacks the power to dominate the party, especially outside the House. .

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But after decades of endless rallies, marches and articles, Sanders’ campaigns gave the senator something he had lacked since previous changes as mayor of Burlington, Vermont: power.

There’s a reason Sanders continues to call the broader measure “the most important piece of legislation for workers since the Great Depression.”

In effect, as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders is effectively writing Biden’s internal political legacy, assuming he can sign most of his $ 3.5 trillion bill into law, a compromise of his previous $ 6 billion wish list.

The package reads almost exactly like one of the campaign speeches Sanders delivered day after day in which he lashed out at “millionaires and billionaires” with his thick Brooklyn accent in countless campaign stops.

Funded by an increase in taxes for corporations and the wealthy, the bill seeks to cut child poverty in half with tax credits and introduces universal free pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. It allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with Big Pharma. The bill would provide dental and hearing benefits for seniors, paid family leave and medical leave, and train more doctors and nurses for underserved areas.

Sanders also wants to combat the homeless crisis by investing in affordable housing. It would address student debt by offering two years of free community college. And it targets the climate crisis by trying to sow a new energy efficient economy.

If even most of this agenda is preserved in any final bill, the 80-year-old Sanders will leave a genuine imprint on American politics and society, one that few Washington watchers would have believed possible six years ago.

So it was significant that the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee chose Tuesday to make his strongest move yet in the debate over the two bills as tensions rise on the House side. Representatives of the Capitol.

“What I do know is that if the infrastructure bill is passed, only in the House, we lose whatever influence we have now,” he said.

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