Squad goals: Ocasio-Cortez warns Biden patience is wearing thin
Photo: J Scott Applewhite / AP
They were targeted questions, not personal criticism. But they will have given Joe Biden a warning that the patience of the left in the Democratic Party and its leaders in the “squad” of progressive politicians is not infinite.
“Are we going to get the deal that helps working people the most?” Asked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the red-hot New York congresswoman and best-known member of the cadre. “Can we get the deal that creates the most jobs? Are we going to get an agreement that will cut most climate emissions? Are we going to pass an agreement that will raise wages and improve our infrastructure for the next generation? "
The appearance of Ocasio-Cortez on the influential TV show Morning Joe last week came with the US president for weeks in negotiations with the Republicans over a massive infrastructure spending package - and apparently little to show for it.
The cadre and others on the party's left continue to largely support Biden as he seeks to re-establish an era of bipartisan collaboration. But with his agenda stalled on Capitol Hill, frustration grows and threatens to crack the facade of democratic unity.
It was Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star with a global profile, who hailed Biden's first hundred days in office as "definitely exceeding progressives' expectations." After all, the president's staggering $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus bailout package was swiftly passed by Congress and entered into force, albeit without the $ 15 an hour minimum wage that Liberals have long sought.
But now the cold reality is invading. Legislation on voting rights, gun safety, immigration and police brutality is stalling in a House of Representatives in which Democrats have a slim majority of 220-211 and a Senate 50-50 shared with Republicans (Vice President Kamala Harris gives the party the casting vote ).
Biden's next key point, the American Jobs Plan, which originally included more than $ 2 trillion in infrastructure, is on a more rocky road. He gave in to negotiations with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, which ultimately failed. Then a bipartisan group of senators made a $ 1.2 trillion proposal, but progressives say it doesn't address the climate crisis, healthcare, and childcare.
Democratic leaders are now discussing a two-step process in which they pass a smaller bill with bipartisan support, but then follow a second measure known as budget reconciliation, which would require almost full party unanimity.
The underlying challenge for Biden is to hold together a sluggish Democratic coalition that includes Conservative Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia - this is the land of Donald Trump - and Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist from Vermont, who will be a 6 -Dollar draft has designed trn infrastructure package.
Then there is the Squad, the left-wing group of members of the House that now consists of seven coloreds. The more Manchin is on the heels of the ambitious legislation, the more restless the squad becomes, raising difficult questions about whether Biden is exerting enough pressure to get the doubters on board.
Yvette Simpson, executive director 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 going all out as he should to ask for more support. In fact, he's negotiating against us and what the Democrats want.
The party's left wing is not convinced that Biden is applying enough pressure to get the doubters on board. Photo: Carlos Barría / Reuters
“So I think the frustration is growing among progressives, and that's understandable. We feel like the clock is running out and we are wasting valuable time and that's when you will start to see the squad and other members of the progressive movement push back and say, "Okay, we have a" limited window of time here. We have to stand up or shut up ‘."
With more than two in three Americans supporting the Infrastructure Bill, according to a poll by Monmouth University, Simpson argues the cadre is on the right side of history. “Their intransigence, their fearlessness, and their insistence should be rewarded; they shouldn't be punished for fighting for what we should be doing anyway.
"There will be a backlash when the troop fight for things we should be doing and the rest of the party says, oh no, Republicans are not on board, oh no, let one person decide he does a whole Hold up an agenda for the entire nation, which the entire nation overwhelmingly wants. "
Although the Biden government has been actively involved with progressives in its first few months, there have been some hot spots. Ocasio-Cortez and others were quick to speak out when it was revealed that Biden intended to keep Trump's limit on the number of refugees admitted to the US; the administration blinked first and backed away.
Squad members, including Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, sharply criticized Israel for its recent bombing of Gaza and called for the Biden government's unwavering support for the country. And when Harris told the Guatemalans, “Don't come” to the US, Ocasio-Cortez called the comment “disappointing” and stated that it was legal to apply for asylum.
Ocasio-Cortez has also pushed Biden to face the fact that bipartisanism with a radicalized Republican party is a doomed business. She tweeted: "Pres. Biden & Senate Dems should take a step back and wonder if it's really worth playing patty cake with GOP Senators, dismantling people's voting rights, setting the planet on fire, and allowing big corporations and the rich to do theirs not paying fair share of taxes, etc. "
Jamaal Bowman, one of the newest members of the squad, said bluntly that Manchin had become "the new Mitch McConnell," referring to the Senate Republican minority leader who was notorious for his disability after the West Virginia Senator gave his support had declared for the legislative filibuster while opposing a wide-ranging vote on the rights bill.
The interventions carry weight, in part because of the cadre's overwhelming influence in both mainstream and social media. Ocasio-Cortez has 12.7 million followers on Twitter. Activists praise her for speaking with moral clarity about Washington's failings in a way that resonates with the public.
Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said, “I don't think they are outside of mainstream thinking about the frustrations people have with the Senate as an institution or the limitations that come with it by such a narrow margin and with Joe present, Manchin continues to resist his own faction. They play a very useful role. "
Their willingness to object is a sign of the party's strength, not weakness, argues Mitchell. “If Joe Biden is pushing the fight, they'll attribute it to him. There are examples where the Biden administration was outside of what we would consider progressive values and they corrected the course and I think the cadre wasn't afraid to name it.
“It made the Biden government actually get better at these issues. This is not an example of disagreement, but equitable branches that function as they should. "
But when it comes to the current legal collapse, some commentators argue that given the balance of power in the Senate, the team would be wrong to take their frustrations out on the president.
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 makes the laws they want. The problem is Congress and the sheer numbers. It is more of a computational problem than an ideological problem. "
The narrow majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives should theoretically give the cadre more leverage over the party leadership than ever before. They threatened to torpedo a $ 1.9 billion spending bill to keep the US Capitol safe after the 6th uprising. Finally, three voted no, three voted and one voted yes ; the bill adopted with a single vote.
Dave Handy, a New York based political activist and adviser who worked on Sanders ‘2016 presidential campaign, said,“ We have a very slim majority in Congress. The squad now has more power than they think they can. I don't know why they don't know their negotiating position and the hand they are holding. "
“Everyone else at the table seems to be aware of this. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate are very aware of their cards. The squad is completely aloof. I'm not even sure they know they are playing poker. You might think you are playing checkers. "
Handy argues that the cadre should put much more pressure on Biden and other Democratic leaders. “I don't think they're as influential as they could be. The troops were chosen to rebel. They are there to agitate. You have the role of a reformer in Congress, and I don't think you have done that in the current Congress. "
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