SPONSORED:

Biden makes inroads with progressives

President Biden has established an early working relationship with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, satisfying a group that was skeptical of him during the campaign with an aggressive agenda in his first weeks in office.

Biden campaigned as a moderate in a primary field of progressive stalwarts including Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP believes Democrats handing them winning 2022 campaign Senators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision World passes 3 million coronavirus deaths MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWorld passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality Democratic senators call on Biden to support waiving vaccine patents MORE (D-Mass.). When opponents attempted to brand him as a socialist, he shot back, “I beat the socialist.”

But the president has managed to win over much of the progressive wing of the party in the early going through regular outreach, executive orders on climate and immigration, and a commitment to a $1.9 trillion relief package.

ADVERTISEMENT

“There are certainly areas we’re continuing to talk to them and push them on, but generally it’s been a good productive relationship, and we feel like many of the priorities of progressives that benefit working people and poor people across the country are really getting addressed and spoken to even in these first two weeks,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBiden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap Omar: 'Shameful' Biden reneging on refugee promise Biden rebuffs Democrats, keeps refugee admissions at 15,000 MORE (D-Wash.), who chairs the 94-member Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Early and consistent outreach from the White House has been key in building trust with progressives on Capitol Hill, officials said.

One of the first calls Louisa TerrellLouisa TerrellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Day 1 goes to Dems as GOP fumes at Trump lawyers Meet President Biden's legislative affairs chief Biden makes inroads with progressives MORE made as Biden’s director of legislative affairs was to the Progressive Caucus. The group has also met with Domestic Policy Council Director Susan RiceSusan RiceHillicon Valley: Facebook Oversight board to rule on Trump ban in 'coming weeks' | Russia blocks Biden Cabinet officials in retaliation for sanctions Russia blocks key Biden Cabinet officials from entering in retaliation for sanctions White House 'horrified' by Indianapolis shooting MORE and National Economic Council Director Brian DeeseBrian DeeseConservatives slam ties between liberal groups, White House The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden meets with bipartisan lawmakers for infrastructure negotiations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Congress returns; infrastructure takes center stage MORE, among others.

The Sunrise Movement, a progressive group focused on climate change, has been in regular contact with members of Biden’s climate team.

Progressives have been satisfied with Biden’s choice of Ron KlainRon KlainMedia complicity in rise of the 'zombie president' conspiracy GOP acknowledges struggle to bring down Biden White House 'horrified' by Indianapolis shooting MORE as his chief of staff, preferring him as a voice who would bring progressive ideas to the table in contrast to Rahm Emanuel, who served as former President Obama’s chief of staff from 2009 to 2010. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“If we want to have unity on a bill that is a priority for the president, I say the same thing that I say to leadership, which is, consult us early and often,” Jayapal said.

Officials say progressive priorities have been reflected in Biden’s early actions, thanks in part to the recommendations of unity task forces between the former presidential campaigns of Biden and Sanders.

Biden delivered progressive groups wins by revoking the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, signing an executive order to end the use of private prisons in the criminal justice system and pushing to include an increase in the minimum wage in the economic relief proposal.

“It really does tell us that Biden is listening and is committed to using his full executive power. And while this is a great step forward we also are very aware this is just the beginning of what needs to get done,” said Ellen Sciales, press secretary for the Sunrise Movement.

The Democratic Party has so far been unified in its push for a robust relief package even without Republican support, weary of repeating the mistakes of the Obama administration when a stimulus package was narrowed to garner GOP votes in 2009 in response to the Great Recession. Any talk of Democrats in disarray has also been overshadowed by infighting among House Republicans. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“The basic lesson of the Obama White House was they never regretted when they went bold and they almost always regretted when they slow walked or watered down popular ideas under the illusory hope that Republicans like [Maine Sen.] Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle Moderates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds MORE would deal in good faith," said Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, who commended Biden for sticking by his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.

But progressive groups and lawmakers have made clear they will push Biden on key issues, setting up potential fractures in the party as the president navigates the rest of his term.

Green's group is pressing for the relief bill to fund full $2,000 stimulus payments to some Americans, after Democrats campaigned on them in the Georgia Senate runoffs. Biden's proposal includes $1,400 checks that add to $600 payments already signed into law in December by former President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal GOP believes Democrats handing them winning 2022 campaign Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns MORE.

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBiden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' McCarthy: GOP not the party of 'nativist dog whistles' White House reverses course on refugee cap after Democratic eruption MORE (D-Minn.) led a group of more than 50 progressive Democratic lawmakers who penned a letter to Biden late last month urging him to support recurring monthly direct payments to Americans during the pandemic.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus will pressure the White House to extend the ban on private prisons to the immigration system and act on student loan debt relief, Jayapal said. The White House said Thursday it is reviewing what actions Biden might be able to take unilaterally to forgive federal student loans amid the pandemic.

The filibuster, which requires 60 votes to close debate on legislation, is another point of tension, though with Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinGame of votes — why budget reconciliation isn't the answer Democrats need Why President Biden is all-in in infrastructure Senators in the dark on parliamentarian's decision MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) opposed to eliminating it, Democrats do not now have the votes to do away with it.

Dozens of progressive groups nonetheless wrote to Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck Schumer'Building Back Better' requires a new approach to US science and technology Pew poll: 50 percent approve of Democrats in Congress Former state Rep. Vernon Jones launches challenge to Kemp in Georgia MORE (D-N.Y.) on Friday urging him to end the filibuster, which they called a “weapon of pure partisan gridlock.”

Tensions could also persist over certain staffing moves in the administration. Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBiden on refugee cap: 'We couldn't do two things at once' A proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Biden angers Democrats by keeping Trump-era refugee cap MORE (D-N.Y.) late last year criticized the makeup of Biden’s Cabinet and whether progressives were being rewarded for their role in helping Biden to the White House.

Progressives have been satisfied with some of Biden’s nominees to Cabinet and other high-level positions, including Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior says it isn't immediately reinstating coal leasing moratorium despite revoking Trump order | Haaland seeks to bolster environmental law targeted by Trump | Debate heats up over role of carbon offsets in Biden's 'net-zero' goal Haaland revokes a dozen Trump orders Haaland seeks to bolster environmental law targeted by Trump MORE (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department, Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraTrump looms over Senate's anti-Asian hate crimes battle NIH reverses Trump administration's ban on fetal tissue research Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson delay prompts criticism of CDC panel | Pfizer CEO says third dose of COVID-19 vaccine 'likely' needed within one year | CDC finds less than 1 percent of fully vaccinated people got COVID-19 MORE to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeFudge on police shootings: Officers want to go home each night, and 'so do we' Julia Letlow sworn in as House member after winning election to replace late husband Working for lasting change MORE as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. 

Some progressives also waged a campaign against Mike Morell for CIA director, a position for which Biden ultimately nominated veteran career diplomat William BurnsWilliam BurnsIntelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats hearing Biden aide: Ability to collect daily intel in Afghanistan 'will diminish' Overnight Defense: Biden officially rolls out Afghanistan withdrawal plan | Probe finds issues with DC Guard helicopter use during June protests MORE

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’ve won a bunch of these fights, but it doesn’t make any sense that some of the people we were having to fight against were ever in the running,” said David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress. “The idea that Biden’s team would have ever considered installing Morell at CIA is another signal we need to be very watchful in the national security realm despite them having made the seemingly better choice of Burns.” 

Segal said that overall the nominations went better than expected but described them as far from perfect. He raised concerns about Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom VilsackTom VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE’s work for the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Commerce Secretary nominee Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoRepublican lawmakers reintroduce bill to ban TikTok on federal devices Hillicon Valley: Intel leaders push for breach notification law | Coinbase goes public House Republicans raise concerns about new Chinese tech companies MORE’s ties to Wall Street, and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenSunday shows - Fauci dominates with remarks on vaccines, boosters, masks and Jordan Blinken says US will 'have the means' to monitor terrorist threats after troops leave Afghanistan Blinken pushes back on criticism to Afghanistan withdrawal: 'We achieved the objectives that we set out to achieve' MORE’s consulting work at WestExec Advisors.

Biden is also facing pressure to more forcefully root out individuals from the government who were installed under former President Trump. Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, noted in particular that most of the U.S. attorneys appointed under Trump remain in place and also argued that FBI Director Christopher Wray should be fired in light of the security failure at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. The White House said last month that Biden would keep Wray on in his position. 

“We’re disconcerted by the number of Trump officials still in power,” Hauser said.