Jayapal pushes Biden to go further on progressive priorities
Rep. Pramila Jayapal pushed President Joe Biden on Thursday to push further on issues including student debt and Covid-19 relief, but said he overall has done “really well” on progressive issues.
Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said at a POLITICO Playbook event Thursday that Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package “should be the floor.” Jayapal argued the package should be between $3 and $4 trillion to meet Americans’ needs.
“If anything, we should strengthen it, not weaken it,” Jayapal said, outlining progressive priorities, including a $15 minimum wage, ensuring immigrants have access to “all of the relief” and a path to citizenship for essential workers.
Progressives Democrats have expressed skepticism that Biden’s calls for utility and bipartisanship on a coronavirus relief deal will bear legislative fruit. Moderates have called for patience to allow more time for centrists to come on board. Key unemployment benefits expire in mid-March.
Both Jayapal and fellow progressive Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who joined the event, had little appetite for bipartisanship.
“This is not a normal time. We’re trying to act like it’s normal,” Jayapal said. “I have only limited tolerance for a Republican party that wrings its hands and talks about unity and moving forward. We had an insurrection where their leader of their party incited that insurrection and many of them continue to support him.”
Without getting a “bold, progressive” agenda through, Jones said Thursday he thinks that Democrats will lose a slim House majority in 2022.
“There’s great urgency around that,” Jones said.
Despite Jayapal’s calls for further action, she lauded Biden’s agenda so far, calling it the “most progressive platform yet that we’ve seen in a long time.” Biden has moved leftward since the beginning of his campaign, with Jayapal and other progressives pushing him to go further.
“We feel very good about where he’s started,” Jayapal said. “He’s gone a far way from when he started his campaign to where he is as president. I do think he understands the crises and the fact that this is a history-making time and a legacy-making time for him, and frankly for our country.”
Jayapal was one of more than 50 House progressives, spearheaded by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who wrote a letter to Biden Thursday calling for recurring checks throughout the pandemic. The Washington lawmaker also said Thursday she would send a letter Thursday alongside Reps. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) and Jason Crow (D-Colo.) saying that Biden’s move to end Department of Justice use of private prisons should extend to private immigration detention facilities.
Jayapal also said she’s pushing Biden to cancel student loan debt, a move she said the president is trying to determine whether he has the power to make. Biden has previously signaled he wouldn’t give into progressives calling for executive action to cancel debt.
With Biden calling for unity, debate has ensued about whether Democrats should use reconciliation to push through priority items with little GOP support. Republicans have called Biden’s calls for unity hollow in light of some of his agenda.
Jayapal called Thursday for Congress to use budget reconciliation, a maneuver that could pass the bill with a simple majority, to pass a proposed $15 federal minimum wage if Republicans don’t get on board. Jayapal said all options should be on the table, including overruling the Senate parliamentarian if they determine reconciliation isn’t the proper avenue for some legislation.
Jones called for the end of the filibuster and called for Biden to continue to use executive action to address issues.
“This moment is our generation’s Reconstruction. We have to get Reconstruction right this time around,” Jones said.