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Progressives unveil Biden Cabinet wish list

Two top progressive groups on Wednesday urged President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden offers support to union organizing efforts Senate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Kavanaugh dismays conservatives by dodging pro-Trump election lawsuits MORE to fill his Cabinet with their allies, the most explicit effort yet for left-wing activists to influence the future 46th president's administration. 

Justice Democrats and the Sunrise Movement, a group of youth climate change activists, pressed Biden to nominate progressives such as Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats nix 'Plan B' on minimum wage hike Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill NFL's Justin Jackson praises Sanders for opposing Biden's USDA nominee MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster MORE (D-Mass.) to top posts and called on him to establish a White House Office of Climate Mobilization dedicated specifically to climate change.

“President-elect Biden must embrace this historic moment by keeping the party united and appointing progressive leaders who will help him usher in the most progressive Democratic administration in generations,” said Alexandra Rojas, executive director of Justice Democrats. “Progressives make up close to half the party in Congress and deserve representation in the next administration.” 

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The two groups highlighted their preferences for a number of climate-related posts, including Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandPolitics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden returns to Obama-era greenhouse gas calculation | House passes major public lands package | Biden administration won't defend Trump-era relaxation of bird protections Indigenous groups post billboards urging senators to confirm Deb Haaland MORE (D-N.M.), one of the first Indigenous women to serve in the House, to lead the Interior Department; Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington state officials warn providers offering VIP vaccine access Legislators go after governors to rein in COVID-19 powers Inslee rebukes hospital over vaccine appointments for donors MORE (D) to serve as assistant to the president on climate mobilization; and Mustafa Ali of the National Wildlife Federation to be tapped as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

They also recommended Sanders to lead the Labor Department, Warren to helm the Treasury Department, Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeLawmakers, Martin Luther King III discuss federal responses to systematic racism The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Ahead: One-shot vax, easing restrictions, fiscal help Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds MORE (D-Calif.) to serve as secretary of State, Minnesota Attorney General Keith EllisonKeith EllisonOfficials: Barr blocked officer plea deal in George Floyd death The one question about climate change only the courts can answer Minnesota bar vows to stay open despite lawsuit, ban on indoor dining MORE (D) to lead the Justice Department, Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSix ways to visualize a divided America Jamaal Bowman's mother dies of COVID-19: 'I share her legacy with all of you' Democrats urge Biden FDA to drop in-person rule for abortion pill MORE (D-Mich.) to oversee the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProgressives fume over Senate setbacks House Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' MORE (D-Wash.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Beyond their top picks, the groups also floated alternative choices who would be sympathetic to progressive causes. 

The suggestions come amid backbiting between left-wing and moderate lawmakers and activists over the makeup of the next White House and a burgeoning blame game over last week's down-ballot disappointments in the House, Senate and state legislatures.

Progressives and centrists had enjoyed a détente from the battles they waged in 2016 as they united to unseat President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE in the 2020 cycle. Biden made a point of appealing to liberal groups, forming unity task forces that included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez: Detailed sexual harassment allegations against Cuomo 'painful to read' The GOP's uncertain future Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash and adopting some policies of his progressive rivals after he clinched the Democratic nomination, including Warren’s bankruptcy plan.

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But with the goal of flipping the White House accomplished, divisions between liberals and moderates have split open again.

The two sides have traded blame over whether Biden’s victory means he has a progressive mandate or whether the facts that Democrats lost House seats and have thus far failed to flip the Senate are signs that moderation is needed. Liberals have claimed they were responsible for energizing the party base during the 2020 cycle, while centrists have said slogans like “defund the police” and the Green New Deal contributed to their down-ballot losses.

“There is no denying Republicans levied salient rhetorical attacks against Democrats, but this will continue to happen as it does every cycle,” progressive groups said in a memo Wednesday. “If we abandon our core progressive base and agenda, Democrats will not hold onto the House majority in the 2022 midterms and will have no hope of gaining ground in the Senate.”

Still, with Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (R-Ky.), expected to keep control of the Senate, it is unclear how easily Biden could get progressive Cabinet nominees confirmed even if he wanted to.

And with some picks such as Sanders and Warren hailing from states with Republican governors, opening up a vacancy in their Senate seats could lead to temporary replacements who could expand the GOP majority. 

But the two progressive groups indicated McConnell should not be a roadblock to cobbling together a progressive administration.

“Democrats have a once-in-a-generation moment to deliver policies at the scale of the crises our generation is facing,” said Prakash. “The Senate can’t be an excuse; whether or not Mitch McConnell remains the Majority Leader, we need an Office of Climate Mobilization and visionary personnel in the Biden administration who are ready to use every tool in their disposal to create millions of good-paying green jobs.”