Energy & Environment

Climate progressives launch first action against Biden amid growing frustration

The White House seen from the North Lawn
UPI Photo

The Sunrise Movement’s relationship with the Biden administration may soon be on ice.

The progressive climate coalition is gearing up to stage a protest outside the White House on Friday in an attempt to persuade President Biden to rethink his bipartisan negotiation strategy with Republicans over their infrastructure plans. Biden is slated to hold another round of talks with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), the lead GOP negotiator, later that day.

The public demonstration represents a striking tactical and tonal shift from the organization’s prior approach to the administration.

Despite being fervent in their push for top progressive policy ideals like the Green New Deal, the group’s leaders have generally communicated through official channels with the White House. Their outside-in method has allowed them to build a productive relationship with senior officials, with some working diligently to form key alliances early on in Biden’s presidency.

That appears to be changing. Now, the group’s leaders are starting to direct anger openly toward Biden, setting the stage for a potential rift in the collaborative relationship.

“This is the first Sunrise Movement escalated action directly targeting Biden at the White House since he entered the presidency,” a statement from the organization read. “But definitely will not be the last.”

The outdoor event is expected to draw some 50 attendees, including several who are “willing to risk arrest,” said a source involved in the planning. Organizers are already discussing plans for a bigger protest later this month, though by that time it’s possible Democrats on Capitol Hill will have started moving forward on infrastructure legislation without Republicans.

Before the gathering, activists in the youth-focused organization drafted a few specific demands, including asking Biden to meet with Varshini Prakash, the Sunrise Movement’s executive director, as well as constituents over the issue.

Leaders are also aiming to press the president to move forward with a “fully funded” Civilian Climate Corps, a newly proposed program loosely modeled after a bill brought forth by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Biden administration officials have mostly been receptive to working alongside progressives pushing for a variety of special interests. Across policy areas, many on the left expressed enthusiasm for several hires announced by the White House, including some who worked on joint task forces formed with Biden’s campaign and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the Democratic presidential primary. Early in the administration, Sunrise Movement leaders were in contact with Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s office, among other senior officials.

“I was invited to the Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce to help Biden craft policy that was in line with what is necessary to meet the crises facing our nation,” Prakash said in a statement. “Biden moved towards us, promising us a future, and in exchange, we worked tirelessly to get him elected. We held up our side of the deal, but now that Biden is in power, that promise of co-governance with progressives and young people has disappeared.”

“He’s spent more of his time meeting with a Republican Party who to this day contests he is the democratically elected president,” Prakash added.

The source involved in the planning for Friday’s protest said leaders “still have correspondence” with the White House’s climate team, but stressed that, in their view, Biden’s ongoing conversations with Republicans sends the wrong message — a sentiment that has been apparent for several weeks as the administration’s proposed American Jobs Plan remains under consideration for revisions.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Ed Markey Joe Biden John Kerry Shelley Moore Capito

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