Progressive leader calls on Biden to unilaterally act on agenda

Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Monday called on President Biden to use executive action to unilaterally enact pieces of Democrats’ Build Back Better agenda, just one day after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) derailed the party’s signature climate and social spending package.

“[N]o one should think that we are going to be satisfied with an even smaller package that leaves people behind or refuses to tackle critical issues like climate change,” Jayapal said on a conference call with reporters.

“That’s why it is now incumbent on President Biden to keep his promise to us and to the American people by using the ultimate tool in his toolbox of executive action in every arena immediately,” she added.

Jayapal said she would begin conversations with fellow Progressive Caucus leaders later Monday and with the White House later this week.

“At this point, we should not wait for that legislative path for the president to take action. I just think if there are too many Americans hurting, there’s too much at stake … We have trusted for too long that Sen. Manchin was engaging in good faith,” Jayapal said. “I am not willing to hang my hopes and the futures of millions of Americans across country on whether or not he will do what he said he would do yesterday, which is often different from today or tomorrow.”

It’s unclear what pieces of the roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better package could be enacted unilaterally by Biden and withstand legal challenges. For example, it’s unlikely Biden could use his executive powers to extend expanded child tax credits that are set to expire at the end of the month.

Still, progressives are pressing Biden to take action, and to also make tackling climate change a top priority.

“Whatever costs the senator claimed to be concerned about it will cost exponentially more to act later, after the damage has occurred both in dollars and in humans,” Jayapal said, referring to Manchin’s opposition to the bill’s climate provisions. “We cannot pass up our singular opportunity to address the scope of this crisis.”

Asked about Jayapal’s push for unilateral action, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters she wasn’t aware of it being under discussion but noted that Biden hasn’t shied from using executive action “to make a range of progress.”

“The benefit of legislation is obviously that it makes it permanent,” Psaki said.

Jayapal said she gave Manchin a piece of her mind when he called her on Monday morning. She accused the moderate Democratic senator of reneging on a promise with Biden to support Build Back Better. Manchin said no such commitment was made.  

Manchin “went back on his word that lack of integrity is stunning in a town where people say the only thing that you have is your word,” Jayapal told reporters. “According to the White House’s statement yesterday and my own conversations with the White House yesterday, it is abundantly clear that we cannot trust what Sen. Manchin says. 

“The senator called me this morning; I took his call. And there is nothing I have said here that I didn’t say to him … We cannot hang the futures of millions of Americans on the words of one man who represents a state that has a tiny percentage of the country’s entire population.”

Morgan Chalfant contributed.

Tags Build Back Better Jen Psaki Joe Biden Joe Manchin Pramila Jayapal

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