Team Goals: Ocasio-Cortez warns Biden’s patience is running out | Democrats
They were pointed questions, not personal criticisms. But they will have warned Joe Biden that the patience of the left of the Democratic Party and its leaders within the “squad” of progressive politicians is not infinite.
“Are we making the deal that helps workers the most?” ” asked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the flamboyant New York Congressman and best-known member of the team. “Are we making the deal that creates the most jobs?” Are we making a deal that cuts climate emissions the most? Do we make a deal that increases wages and actually improves our infrastructure for the next generation? “
Ocasio-Cortez appearance in influential TV show Morning Joe last week the president entered into negotiations with republicans over a massive infrastructure spending program – and apparently little results.
The team and others to the party’s left have remained broadly supportive of Biden as he seeks to restore an era of bipartisan cooperation. But with his agenda stalled on Capitol Hill, frustrations mount and threaten to shatter the facade of Democratic unity.
It was Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star with a global profile, who hailed Biden’s first 100 days as having “definitely exceeded the expectations of progressives.” After all, the president’s massive $ 1.9 billion coronavirus relief package was swiftly passed by Congress and enacted, albeit without the federal minimum wage of $ 15 an hour that the Liberals have been seeking ever since. long time.
However, the cold reality is now erupting. Voting rights, gun safety, immigration and police brutality legislation teetering in a House of Representatives where Democrats hold a slim 220-211 majority and a Senate split 50-50 with Republicans (Vice President Kamala Harris gives the party the deciding vote).
Biden’s next big deal, the U.S. Jobs Plan, which initially offered more than $ 2 billion for infrastructure, faces a rockier road. He conceded some ground in the negotiations with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito which ultimately collapsed. Then a bipartisan group of senators proposed a $ 1.2 billion proposal but, say progressives, it fails to solve the climate crisis, health care and child care.
Democratic leaders are now discussing a two-step process in which they pass a smaller bill with bipartisan support and then follow through with a second measure passed through a process known as budget reconciliation, which would require almost total party unanimity.
The underlying challenge for Biden is how to maintain a heavy Democratic coalition that includes Conservative Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia – which is the home of Donald Trump – and Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist from Vermont, who wrote this week a $ 6 billion infrastructure package.
Then there is the squad, the left group of House members who now consists of seven colored people. The more Manchin digs his heels against ambitious legislation, the more likely the team is to become reluctant, raising difficult questions about whether Biden is exerting enough pressure to bring skeptics on board.
Yvette Simpson, CEO of the progressive organization Democracy for America, said: “Right now people are really frustrated because it’s been six months and we don’t see Joe Biden engaging in the way he should to lobby for more support. In fact, he is negotiating against us and against what the Democrats want.
“So I think there’s a growing sense of frustration among progressives and that’s understandable. We feel like time is running out and we’re wasting precious time and that’s where you’re going to start to see the team and other members of the progressive movement push back and say, “OK, we’ve got a window of. limited time here. We have to put up or shut up ‘.
With more than two in three Americans supporting the infrastructure bill, according to a survey from Monmouth University, Simpson maintains that the team is on the right side of the story. “Their relentlessness, fearlessness and perseverance should be rewarded; they shouldn’t be punished for fighting for what we should be doing anyway.
“There’s going to be a backlash if the team is fighting for things that we really should be doing and the rest of the group says, oh no, the Republicans are not on board, oh no, let one person decide what ‘he’s going to hold an entire agenda for the whole nation, which the whole nation overwhelmingly wants. ”
While the Biden administration actively engaged with progressives in its early months, there were a few flashpoints. Ocasio-Cortez and others were quick to speak out when it emerged that Biden intended to maintain Trump’s cap on the number of refugees allowed into the United States; the administration first blinked and stepped back.
Members of the squad, including Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, strongly criticized Israel for its recent bombing of Gaza and questioned the Biden administration’s steadfast support for the country. And when Harris told the Guatemalans, “Don’t come” to the United States, Ocasio-Cortez called the comment “disappointing” and noted that it is legal to seek asylum.
Ocasio-Cortez also pushed Biden to face the fact that bipartisanship with a radicalized Republican Party is a doomed business. She tweeted: ” Near. Biden and Senate MPs should take a step back and consider whether playing pie with GOP senators is really worth dismantling people’s voting rights, setting the planet on fire, allowing big business and the rich not to pay their fair share of taxes, etc. “
Jamaal Bowman, one of the new members of the team, said bluntly that Manchin “has become the new Mitch McConnell,” referring to the infamous Republican Senate Minority Leader for his obstruction, after the West Virginia senator declared his support for legislative obstruction while opposing a vast draft law on voting rights.
The interventions carry weight in part because of the team’s inordinate influence in mainstream and social media. Ocasio-Cortez has 12.7 million subscribers on Twitter. Activists praise them for speaking with moral clarity about Washington’s failures in a way that touches the public.
Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said: “I don’t think they are outside the mainstream thinking about the frustrations people have with the Senate as an institution or the limits that come with such a margin. close and with Joe Manchin continuing to overthrow his own caucus. They play a very useful role.
Their willingness to oppose is a sign of party strength, not weakness, argues Mitchell. “When Joe Biden takes the fight forward, they’ll give him credit for it. There are instances where the Biden administration has been outside of what we consider progressive values and of course they corrected and that was, I think, because the team weren’t afraid of the call.
“This has led the Biden administration to improve on these issues. This is not an example of disunity, but co-equal branches functioning as they should.
But when it comes to the current legislative deadlock, some commentators argue that the team would be wrong to blame their frustrations on the president, given the balance of power in the Senate.
Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota said, “I don’t know how you criticize Biden for Manchin. Biden is implementing whatever legislation they want. The problem is Congress and the numbers. It is a problem of arithmetic more than a problem of ideology.
The slim majority of Democrats in the House should, in theory, give the team more leverage over party leadership than ever before. They threatened to torpedo a $ 1.9 billion spending bill to improve security on the US Capitol in the wake of the January 6 uprising over concerns over more money going to the police; finally three voted no, three voted present and one voted yes; the bill was passed with one vote.
Dave Handy, a New York-based political activist and consultant who worked on Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign said, “We have a very small majority in Congress. The team now has more power than they realize. I don’t know why they are ignoring their bargaining position and the hand they are holding.
“Everyone around the table seems to be aware of this. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate are very aware of the cards they hold. The team is completely distant. I’m not even sure they know they are playing poker. They might think they are playing checkers.
Handy argues the team should put much more pressure on Biden and other Democratic leaders. “I don’t think they wield as much influence as they could be. The team was elected to be garbage collectors. They are there to be agitated. Their is the role of a reformer in Congress and, in my opinion, in this current Congress they have not. “