Progressive Democrats are never ashamed to fight for what they want.
But their aggressive tactics in the recent struggle for a massive social safety net package surprised many in their own party and raised questions about whether the tougher stance is an anomaly or an upcoming battle. Signs of doubt.
Encouraged by the Democratic Party’s narrow control of the Senate and House of Representatives, the 95-member Congressional Progressive Caucus delayed the passage of the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill for nearly two months—not because they opposed it. It is meant to be used as a lever in negotiations with the moderates for a separate, larger spending plan to address health care, childcare and climate change issues.
In the process, they repeatedly delayed President Biden’s legislative agenda and ignored House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who wanted to see the infrastructure bill passed in September.
This month, although negotiations on the safety net bill continued, most progressives gave in and supported the passage of the infrastructure bill. Biden signed the Infrastructure Act on Monday to make it law.
But this extremely tragic battle not only illustrates the rise in the power of the progressive parties of the Democratic Party, but also the increasing friction between them and the moderates.
Some progressive lawmakers believe that their tough strategy is necessary to keep Biden’s legislative agenda on track and ensure that once the infrastructure bill is passed, it will not disappear. They believe that this struggle is more a one-off event than a template for future negotiations.
“This is a very unique situation,” Rep. Ruben Gallego (Arizona Democrat) said in an interview. “I don’t think we can redo this thing.”
But external progressive allies expressed their hope that the core team will continue to demonstrate their strength in ways that they have never done before.
“I certainly think it can continue,” said Andrew O’Neill, senior economic and judicial policy manager at the Indivisible Project. “It’s more like you exercise and strengthen and then use more muscles, rather than you just use some kind of limited political capital, and then it all disappears.”
Joseph Geevarghese, the executive director of Our Revolution, a liberal external organization, said that as long as the progressives have the ability to unite as a voting group, as long as they do so, they will send a signal to the moderates that “Washington ushered in a new day.” , Progressives are emerging as a “stronger and more assertive” group.
Geevarghese added: “We have to take a hard line on legislation to be taken seriously.” “This is a numbers game, and we have to elect more people who are willing to stand up. But look, I think there is an effective script here, if We have more progressive Democrats in our team, and its effect will be very good.”
Moderates warn that this strategy may be counterproductive in the long run.
Representative Josh Harder (D-Turlock), a weak and moderate representative of the swing zone, questioned the wisdom of opposing a bill to facilitate the passage of a separate measure.
“I think, personally, the best way to legislate is to vote based on the merits of the legislation you have to consider,” he said. “And I think what frustrated me in the last battle is that I didn’t hear anyone having problems with the infrastructure bill we helped put together. I don’t think opposing a piece of legislation is a strong legislative strategy because you want some Something that has nothing to do with other places.”
Many Congressional Democrats expect progressives to join faster than they can in the struggle for the social safety net package.
The leaders of the Progressive Caucus stated that about half of their members are firmly opposed to voting on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, but there is no legislative text on the broader social spending and climate change bill, which can pass the House together with bipartisan measures. Enough to make the legislation sink to the ground.
Pramila Jayapal, chairman of the Progressive Caucus, said that it was her members’ determination that allowed them to withstand pressure from party leaders and moderates.
“Most of our members have not left the core group,” Jayapar (D-Wash.) told CNN earlier this month. “It’s not like we have only a few people who will not vote for the infrastructure bill. Our core group has 30 to 60 members and they will not vote for the infrastructure bill individually. So my job is: when we say yes, we Say yes. When we say no, we say no. People should know—unless I knew I had a vote, I wouldn’t say that.”
By November 5th-after the Congressional Black Caucus announced an agreement with the leadership to vote on the infrastructure bill and procedurally vote on the safety net package, later that day, it was called “rebuild better.” -Progressives began to soften their position.
Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine), vice chairman of the Progressive Caucus, said that progressives’ strategy has come to an end.
“We hope that the Senate will either pass Build Back Better before sending it to [the House], Or at least agree that the “Better Rebuild Bill” passed by the House of Representatives will have their support when it is submitted to the Senate,” Porter said. “We insisted on this, we pushed for that, we pushed for that. I think the final judgment is that there are no more ways to do this. “
Pressure from the leaders of the Democratic Party is also increasing. Biden called the Progressive Party Caucus in the afternoon and put forward the reason that the Democrats of the House of Representatives need to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill that day, prompting a group of progressives-including Congressman Sarah Jacobs (D-San Diego), Mundei Jones (DN.Y.), Ritchie Torres (DN.Y.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (DR.I.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Debbie Dingell (D -Mich.)-Stand up and tell their colleagues that it is time to say “yes”.
“Biden is absolutely critical,” said a core team member who requested anonymity, who spoke frankly about the private meeting. “I think when the president calls, when the president says,’maybe we can’t do anything at that time’, I think when people like to persist, no, we have to get something done.”
Even so, in the end, six progressives in the House of Representatives voted against the infrastructure bill, partly because the safety net package has not yet been finalized. If no 13 Republicans in the House of Representatives vote in favor, this would be enough to block the infrastructure bill.
According to a core group member who requested anonymity, Jayapar supported the November 5 vote, but she led the progressive push and refused to compromise until the end. She initially rejected Biden’s request for unity on November 5. But according to the member, Jayapar reached an agreement as the position of the members began to weaken and “the tide began to turn”.
In return for the progressives’ vote on infrastructure, the moderates agreed to issue a general statement in support of the safety net bill. The House of Representatives is expected to pass a version of the safety net bill this week and send it to the Senate, and changes are expected.
Some critics of the progressive strategy compare it to the more likely actions of the Republican conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose disciplined members never hesitate to obstruct or even overthrow Republican leaders who do not accept its agenda.
Progressives reject such comparisons, saying that unlike many conservatives, liberals tend to believe that the government has the ability to bring about positive change, and this common belief will prevent the Democratic Party from splitting like the Republican Party.
“This is what progressives do: they actually care about people’s lives,” said Rep. Jared Hoffman (D-San Rafael). “And this [Build Back Better] If we get it right, Bill is expected to change people’s lives in a very good way. So this brings us together. This is glue. “