Progressives Fight for Leverage Within Democratic Party Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) speaks during a news conference on July 24, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images)
By Brian Freeman | Monday, 12 April 2021 10:35 AM
Despite progressives watching their marquee value rise in the Democrat-controlled Congress, they may not have the leverage to significantly shape legislative priorities such as President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and jobs package, The Hill reported on Monday.
The Democrats’ razor-thin majorities mean they will need near-total cooperation among everyone in their House and Senate caucuses to pass any legislation on their own without Republican backing, putting additional pressure on party members to stick together.
"That's just what we're dealing with within the Democratic Party right now. We've got some diversity of opinion on [taxes], and we also have really thin margins," said Rep. Dan Kildee, the Democrats’ chief deputy whip and a member of the Progressive Caucus.
In any case, Biden’s proposals so far have been markedly progressive; some are calling his agenda a “New New Deal,” according to The Hill.
For example, the American Rescue Plan that Biden signed into law pumped almost $2 trillion into the economy to help battle the coronavirus pandemic and for emergency aid. His American Jobs Plan calls for a mammoth $2.25 trillion investment in areas such as transportation infrastructure, technology, and the care economy.
Although progressives are not completely satisfied with these measures, they don’t want to do anything to prevent the massive government spending from happening.
“We’re talking about a bill that makes historic investments in the care industry — that’s progressive gold!” a progressive aide said. “This is an industry that has been so long ignored and undervalued. Progressives are interested in the ability to change the paradigm in how we view care, not to mention climate investment.”
Some of the tensions between the ideological wings of the Democratic Party are already appearing over Biden's tax proposal, said Kildee, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee.
This includes disagreements among Democrats over hiking the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, with many liberals wanting to raise that figure more and some moderates, such as Sen. Joe Manchin, complaining it is already too high.
Knowing that swing-district centrists are crucial to maintaining their majority in 2022, Democrat leaders have limited the ability to allow legislation to veer too far to the left.
This has become more urgent as the Democrat majority in the House has been cut to just two due to three members resigning to join Biden’s administration and the death of Rep. Alcee Hastings last week. These vacancies won't be filled by special elections for months
The Progressive Caucus on Friday outlined five priorities for the infrastructure debate: setting up universal access to child care as well as paid family and medical leave; investments in public housing and renewable energy; lowering drug prices; and outlining a pathway to citizenship for certain immigrants.
“These priorities will strengthen this critical bill and fulfill our promises to the American people,” Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said. “It’s time to go big and it’s time to go bold, and enact these as part of a single, ambitious package.”