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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 SandersThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population Overnight Health Care: Medicaid enrollment reaches new high | White House gives allocation plan for 55M doses | Schumer backs dental, vision, hearing in Medicare Schumer backing plan to add dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden risks break with progressives on infrastructure The Memo: The center strikes back Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting 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.

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“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 JayapalOvernight Health Care: Biden touts 300 million vaccine doses in 150 days | Biden warns of 'potentially deadlier' delta variant | Public option fades with little outcry from progressives Overnight Energy: Lake Mead's decline points to scary water future in West | White House leads opposition to raising gas tax | Biden taps ex-New Mexico lawmaker for USDA post On The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike 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 - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? The 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 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 RiceDemocrats control the language of politics and culture — but for how long? The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden faces pressure amid infrastructure negotiations Republicans' 'marriage bonus' is social engineering at its worst MORE and National Economic Council Director Brian DeeseBrian DeeseThe Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? On The Money: Breaking down Biden's .8T American Families Plan | Powell voices confidence in Fed's handle on inflation | Wall Street basks in 'Biden boom' Biden proposes tax hikes for high-income Americans 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 Klain'It's still a BFD': Democrats applaud ruling upholding ObamaCare Vermont governor lifts restrictions as state becomes first to reach 80 percent vaccinated Biden's no-drama White House chief 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. 

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“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. 

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“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 CollinsPortman: Republicans are 'absolutely' committed to bipartisan infrastructure bill Democratic clamor grows for select committee on Jan. 6 attack Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting 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 TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE.

Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarYoung Turks founder on Democratic establishment: 'They lie nonstop' Hillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters 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 ManchinSinema defends filibuster ahead of Senate voting rights showdown The Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin 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 SchumerHeatwaves don't lie: Telling the truth about climate change Schumer backing plan to add dental, vision and hearing coverage to Medicare Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting 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-CortezHeatwaves don't lie: Telling the truth about climate change Biden risks break with progressives on infrastructure The Memo: The center strikes back 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 HaalandSenate confirms Biden pick for No. 2 role at Interior Sanders opposes Biden Interior nominee in procedural vote OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Judge halts Biden pause on new public lands oil leasing | Democrat presses Haaland on oil and gas review | EPA puts additional delay on Trump lead and copper in drinking water rule MORE (D-N.M.) to lead the Interior Department, Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCDC can't regulate cruises: judge Sanders 'delighted' DeSantis asked White House to import Canadian prescription drugs Feehery: It's for the children MORE to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeOn The Money: Democrats make full-court press on expanded child tax credit | White House confident Congress will raise debt ceiling HUD secretary links student loan debt to decline in Black homeownership On The Money: Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle | White House rules out gas tax hike 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 Burns30-year CIA veteran to run espionage operations 'Havana Syndrome' and other escalations mark a sinister turn in the spy game Intel community: Competing COVID-19 origin theories not 'more likely than the other' MORE

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“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 RaimondoTime to tackle the pandemic's economic disruptions Chinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report US, EU establish trade and technology council to compete with China MORE’s ties to Wall Street, and Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenEnvoy says US in talks to remove foreign forces in Libya ahead of elections State Department to fly 'Progress' flag in honor of Pride month US joins Canada, United Kingdom, EU, with joint sanctions on Belarus 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.