Liberals face looming letdown after early Covid wins

Progressive leaders say they are ready to use the weight of their caucus, as well as the megaphone of close-knit external groups, to try to force their party’s hand.

“We are preparing for victories on these issues. We will push them to the end,” said Jayapal, chairman of the Progressive Caucus of Congress, in an interview.

Jayapal admitted that potential budget issues would be beyond the control of the House, and said her caucus would “do all we can” to support Sanders as he pushes for a broader bill.

The coronavirus relief gains won by the House Liberals are among the first signs of a newly encouraged progressive wing under Jayapal’s leadership. In the fall she an overhaul carried out the group that cemented its power and tightened membership rules to give the sprawling progressive caucus more leverage within the house.

And that new influence could be invaluable as House leaders look beyond this winter’s pandemic relief talks to an agenda filled with hot-button bills that the narrow majority of Democrats across the board from immigration to gun control to voting rights. Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi can only afford to lose a handful of Democrats in a given vote, giving the rival factions of the caucus an oversized leverage.

Jayapal, who had Covid in the early days of Biden’s presidency, said she stood up for all levels of democratic leadership to ensure an aid law that includes the minimum wage of $ 15 an hour that is for the left Priority had been – including Democratic leaders – for over a decade.

Jayapal said the CPC was “feeling pretty good” until Biden’s testimony last Friday to doubt about whether the wage increase would make it into the final bill – a moment she called a “belly blow”. She spent the weekend arguing with House Committee chairs and Biden advisers to keep the wake hike going. This included helping organize a Sunday interview with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, which the panel staff and house management staff attended to answer some of the remaining procedural questions.

“I went out of my way to get it in there,” Jayapal said, adding that she had also planned a backup option: a change to force the wage increase into the bill during a committee surcharge. She was also in contact with influential outside groups such as the Service Employees International Union.

The original version of the bill, presented to the House Education and Labor Committee Democrats on Sunday, did not include a minimum wage regulation. But on Sunday night, Jayapal said she had received text from both Pelosi and Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott that would be included.

Senior Democrats say they have been working for weeks to include the minimum wage hike, arguing that there is little point in being conservative when your party has all the levers of power. Even so, they privately acknowledge that the Senate ultimately has the power to determine what remains in the auxiliary bill.

No one can predict whether policies like the $ 15 minimum wage will be preserved in the Senate’s final bill. This question is left to the Senate parliamentarian, who determines which policy is successful in the budget process known as reconciliation. Majority Leader of the Senate Chuck Schumer dodged questions on Tuesday on whether the provision would survive a parliamentary review.

Then there’s the Senate 50:50 divide, which means that a single Democrat – like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia – can cross one item off the Liberal wish list.

“Who worked in the grocery stores, drug stores, meat packers and carers? They were people we didn’t think were worth paying $ 15 an hour and they are the glue that holds us together, ”said MP Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), A member of the Progressive Caucus and the democratic leadership also vowed to keep politics alive.

The past two years in the majority have prepared House progressives well for their current struggle, forcing them to work with top Democrats to settle the big bills, including an earlier hike in the minimum wage led to internal party disputes between the more liberal and centrist members of the party.

However, the Liberals’ initial success in their party’s Covid negotiations is a shift from the previous Congress, when Jayapal and her members were sometimes forced to give in to their moderate – and more politically vulnerable – counterparts on major political priorities like immigration. cause open warfare within the caucus.

It is unclear how long the bonhomie will last between the two wings of the party.

Last Congress, the messaging bills that made it into the house had no chance of going into law, given the GOP-controlled White House and Senate. The calculations for Democratic leaders in both houses are very different as they are now in full control of Washington trying to pass a nearly $ 2 trillion bill that can get virtually uniform support from their party without either of the budget -Meeting tripwires of the Senate.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, either, with billions of dollars at stake in vaccine distribution, schools, small businesses, and health workers as Biden seeks to achieve his first major legislative priority. And the Democrats fear that a political misstep could cost them in the medium term in 2022.

Jayapal said progressives have an arsenal of tools to keep pressure on Biden leaders and the Democrats over the next two years, including their extensive activist base.

When top Democrats pondered whether to tighten eligibility for stimulus checks on people, Jayapal decided that she and her members should be vocal and rely on the broad public support for her position. The Washington Democrat wrote a letter with Biden ally Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), In which he called on the party not to lower the upper income limit with more than 100 signatures.

Still, longtime liberals in the House say they need to be willing to make some concessions as the Democrats put together the largest possible bill under restrictive conditions.

“You can’t be in advocacy without experiencing heartbreak. You stand up for the best you can and ultimately have to make a decision about essential progress,” said veteran Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

“Not all of us,” added Welch, “will get what we want.”

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