Progressives are pushing for a bold Biden agenda. They might have to work around Congress to do it.

Author : mhhasan
Publish Date : 2020-11-29


Progressives are pushing for a bold Biden agenda. They might have to work around Congress to do it.

Progressives aren't interested in giving President-elect Joe Biden a honeymoon.

After helping to mobilize election turnout of young people and left-leaning Democrats, progressive leaders want to hold the Biden administration to promises made on the campaign trail: addressing climate change, combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and offering student debt relief. 

“This isn’t 2015 anymore. This isn’t 2010 anymore. It’s not 2005 anymore,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist from New York, said at a rally with progressives last week. “The movement got us here. You all got us a seat at the table.”

But as progressives lean into their policy demands, one roadblock remains: Who will control the Senate?

Two runoffs in Georgia will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber when the new Congress is sworn in in January. If the Republican majority holds, not only will it be difficult for Democrats to pass legislation, it will likely mean the progressive wish list will be left on the backburner. 

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, a group that scrutinizes personnel in the executive branch, said progressives understand there will be substantial challenges in getting legislation passed and that "this is not a time for peace and prosperity."

"The Senate picture is somewhere between bad and not good," he said.

And even if Democrats do control the Senate, progressive legislation might still face an uphill battle, said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University 

"I think it's going to be a big management problem for (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi, Baker said. "The big problem is managing the expectations of progressives."

Baker noted passing legislation that makes both wings of the Democratic Party happy isn't a given, pointing to the infighting between moderate and progressive Democrats days following the November election.

He specifically pointed to the "defund the police" movement, which calls on funding for police departments to be reallocated for other social services. Many establishment and centrist Democrats said that term, in addition to Democrats being linked to socialism, cost them House seats in the general election.

"The language of progressives becomes an issue to all Democrats," Baker said. 

As a result, progressives are turning to processes where they believe they can make the most impact: The use of executive power and who Biden appointments to serve in his administration.

Adam Green, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said progressives have urged Biden specifically to limit the appointments of people who have a lobbying or corporate background. Green said if progressive legislation can't get passed through Congress, and Biden has to use executive power instead, former lobbyists from key industries could hinder that progress.

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