President Biden has established an early working relationship with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, satisfying a group that was skeptical of him during the campaign with an aggressive agenda in his first weeks in office.
Biden campaigned as a moderate in a primary field of progressive stalwarts including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders criticizes Democrats willing to pare down eligibility for stimulus checks Sunday shows preview: Budget resolution clears path for .9 trillion stimulus; Senate gears up for impeachment trial The Memo: Bad jobs report boosts Biden stimulus case MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFive takeaways from the budget marathon On The Money: White House reviewing if Biden can cancel student loan debt | Senate signals broad support for more targeted relief checks | Romney proposes monthly payments for families with children West Virginia newspaper sues Facebook, Google for manipulating digital-advertising market MORE (D-Mass.). When opponents attempted to brand him as a socialist, he shot back, “I beat the socialist.”
But the president has managed to win over much of the progressive wing of the party in the early going through regular outreach, executive orders on climate and immigration, and a commitment to a $1.9 trillion relief package.
“There are certainly areas we’re continuing to talk to them and push them on, but generally it’s been a good productive relationship, and we feel like many of the priorities of progressives that benefit working people and poor people across the country are really getting addressed and spoken to even in these first two weeks,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBiden’s push for stimulus checks sparks income eligibility debate The president has changed, but Washington hasn’t Progressives push controversial proposal on budget reconciliation MORE (D-Wash.), who chairs the 94-member Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Early and consistent outreach from the White House has been key in building trust with progressives on Capitol Hill, officials said.
One of the first calls Louisa TerrellLouisa TerrellBiden officials hold call with bipartisan group of senators on coronavirus relief plan MORE made as Biden’s director of legislative affairs was to the Progressive Caucus. The group has also met with Domestic Policy Council Director Susan RiceSusan RiceThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden seeks vaccine for all by summer; Trump censure? 5 things to know about Biden’s racial equity orders The Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Facebook – Vaccination goals for 2021 MORE and National Economic Council Director Brian DeeseBrian DeeseThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Republicans squeeze Biden with 0 billion COVID-19 relief alternative Biden’s push for stimulus checks sparks income eligibility debate Biden aides signal president is open to talks on COVID-19 relief MORE, among others.
The Sunrise Movement, a progressive group focused on climate change, has been in regular contact with members of Biden’s climate team.
Progressives have been satisfied with Biden’s choice of Ron KlainRon KlainGOP blames White House staff for lack of COVID-19 relief deal Biden to announce task force on migrant family reunification next week The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Which path will Democrats take on COVID-19 bill? MORE as his chief of staff, preferring him as a voice who would bring progressive ideas to the table in contrast to Rahm Emanuel, who served as former President Obama’s chief of staff from 2009 to 2010.
“If we want to have unity on a bill that is a priority for the president, I say the same thing that I say to leadership, which is, consult us early and often,” Jayapal said.
Officials say progressive priorities have been reflected in Biden’s early actions, thanks in part to the recommendations of unity task forces between the former presidential campaigns of Biden and Sanders.
Biden delivered progressive groups wins by revoking the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, signing an executive order to end the use of private prisons in the criminal justice system and pushing to include an increase in the minimum wage in the economic relief proposal.
“It really does tell us that Biden is listening and is committed to using his full executive power. And while this is a great step forward we also are very aware this is just the beginning of what needs to get done,” said Ellen Sciales, press secretary for the Sunrise Movement.
The Democratic Party has so far been unified in its push for a robust relief package even without Republican support, weary of repeating the mistakes of the Obama administration when a stimulus package was narrowed to garner GOP votes in 2009 in response to the Great Recession. Any talk of Democrats in disarray has also been overshadowed by infighting among House Republicans.
“The basic lesson of the Obama White House was they never regretted when they went bold and they almost always regretted when they slow walked or watered down popular ideas under the illusory hope that Republicans like [Maine Sen.] Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSanders criticizes Democrats willing to pare down eligibility for stimulus checks Biden doubles down on normal at White House The Memo: Bad jobs report boosts Biden stimulus case MORE would deal in good faith,” said Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who commended Biden for sticking by his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.
But progressive groups and lawmakers have made clear they will push Biden on key issues, setting up potential fractures in the party as the president navigates the rest of his term.
Green’s group is pressing for the relief bill to fund full $2,000 stimulus payments to some Americans, after Democrats campaigned on them in the Georgia Senate runoffs. Biden’s proposal includes $1,400 checks that add to $600 payments already signed into law in December by former President TrumpDonald TrumpTwitter permanently suspends Gateway Pundit founder’s account Wyoming Republican Party censures Cheney over Trump impeachment vote Trump access to intelligence briefings will be determined by officials, White House says: report MORE.
Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarDefiant Greene attacks media, dodges questions on past remarks Thunberg: ‘Hate, threats’ will not deter support for farmer protests in India The Memo: Marjorie Taylor Greene won’t slink away MORE (D-Minn.) led a group of more than 50 progressive Democratic lawmakers who penned a letter to Biden late last month urging him to support recurring monthly direct payments to Americans during the pandemic.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus will pressure the White House to extend the ban on private prisons to the immigration system and act on student loan debt relief, Jayapal said. The White House said Thursday it is reviewing what actions Biden might be able to take unilaterally to forgive federal student loans amid the pandemic.
The filibuster, which requires 60 votes to close debate on legislation, is another point of tension, though with Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSanders criticizes Democrats willing to pare down eligibility for stimulus checks The Memo: Bad jobs report boosts Biden stimulus case Biden expects minimum wage increase will be dropped from final relief bill MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) opposed to eliminating it, Democrats do not now have the votes to do away with it.
Dozens of progressive groups nonetheless wrote to Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOver 60 progressive groups urge Schumer to nix filibuster Booker reintroduces bill to give all newborns ,000 savings accounts Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Blumenauer aim to require Biden to declare climate emergency MORE (D-N.Y.) on Friday urging him to end the filibuster, which they called a “weapon of pure partisan gridlock.”
Tensions could also persist over certain staffing moves in the administration. Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders criticizes Democrats willing to pare down eligibility for stimulus checks Defiant Greene attacks media, dodges questions on past remarks Ocasio-Cortez thanks Capitol Police amid criticism of her riot experience MORE (D-N.Y.) late last year criticized the makeup of Biden’s Cabinet and whether progressives were being rewarded for their role in helping Biden to the White House.
Progressives have been satisfied with some of Biden’s nominees to Cabinet and other high-level positions, including Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandDaines seeks to block Haaland confirmation to Interior Biden’s efforts on climate is a start but what about including biodiversity? Robinhood looks for in-house lobbyist amid backlash from lawmakers MORE (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department, Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraPelosi pushing Newsom to pick Schiff for next California AG: report Newsom to wait on announcing next California attorney general until Becerra confirmed Top Democrats urge Yellen to crack down on dark money groups MORE to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – House boots Greene from committees; Senate plows ahead on budget Senate panel advances Biden’s picks for Housing secretary, chief economist The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Cheney keeps leadership post; Dems to punish Greene MORE as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Some progressives also waged a campaign against Mike Morell for CIA director, a position for which Biden ultimately nominated veteran career diplomat William BurnsWilliam BurnsBiden’s Cabinet gradually confirmed by Senate Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director MORE.
“We’ve won a bunch of these fights, but it doesn’t make any sense that some of the people we were having to fight against were ever in the running,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress. “The idea that Biden’s team would have ever considered installing Morell at CIA is another signal we need to be very watchful in the national security realm despite them having made the seemingly better choice of Burns.”
Segal said that overall the nominations went better than expected but described them as far from perfect. He raised concerns about Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE’s work for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Commerce Secretary nominee Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoDaines seeks to block Haaland confirmation to Interior Hillicon Valley: Democratic senators unveil bill to reform Section 230 | Labor board denies Amazon request to delay local union vote | Robinhood lifts restrictions on GameStop, other stocks Cruz blocks vote on Biden Commerce secretary nominee over Huawei concerns MORE’s ties to Wall Street, and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenGOP senator urges Biden to confirm US will keep embassy in Jerusalem Blinken, Saudi counterpart discuss Yemen in first phone call Five things to know about Biden’s Yemen move MORE’s consulting work at WestExec Advisors.
Biden is also facing pressure to more forcefully root out individuals from the government who were installed under former President Trump. Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, noted in particular that most of the U.S. attorneys appointed under Trump remain in place and also argued that FBI Director Christopher Wray should be fired in light of the security failure at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The White House said last month that Biden would keep Wray on in his position.
“We’re disconcerted by the number of Trump officials still in power,” Hauser said.