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Is There A Progressive Agenda? For Starters, The Progressive Caucus Sent This Over To Biden Today

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

Nancy Ohanian captures Jamaal, Marie, Ted, Mondaire, Rashida, Pramila, Cori, Ilhan, Bernie, AOC

Most, but not all the Blue America-endorsed candidates are big Congressional Progressive Caucus fans and look forward to joining. Some have publicly said they don't want to be associated with the reactionary and corrupt New Dems who are part of the Caucus and hold it back from the most progressive policies many members would like to use the CPC to fight for. I think there's more enthusiasm for The Squad-- all of whose members are also members of the CPC-- than for the Caucus itself. One candidate, who asked not to be quoted by name told me that he had gone through the CPC statement carefully and said "it kinda feels like waving the white flag. I know getting anything done in Congress in an election year is brutal, but this feels like progressives are literally throwing their hands in the air and shifting the burden of action to Biden (who for gods sake we KNOW will never fucking cancel student debt)."

That said, there was tremendous enthusiasm from almost all the candidates for the CPC recommendations for Biden released earlier today. Sergio Alcubilla, the Honolulu-based progressive running for a seat occupied by reactionary Blue Dog Ed Case, told me that "What the Congressional Progressive Caucus is asking President Biden to take executive action on is simply doing the right thing. Doing right for the American people and doing right for this country. With President Biden and the Democratic agenda on Build Back Better being derailed by corporate interests and corporate politicians, the President must use his executive power to deliver for the American people to lower health care costs, expand worker power, and take decisive action to combat climate change. Hawaii's own Rep. Patsy Mink championed such progressive values and we cannot stop now to always do what is right, fair, and just for the American people."

Several of our candidates liked it as far as it went but had hoped for more. Our most recent endorsee, Rhode Island progressive David Segal, the former majority leader of the Providence City Council and later a member of the state House. Most recently he has been serving as Executive Director of Demand Progress and has just announced he's running for the open Rhode Island congressional seat. "The executive branch has immense power to act on behalf of the American people," he told me today, "and while legislation is often the better path-- because you can achieve more expansive and permanent outcomes that way-- it's unfortunately clear we need to assume that people like Manchin and Sinema are generally going to veto progressive ambitions if given the chance. We have a workaround for some of this-- and I'm glad the CPC has called on Biden to use his expansive authorities to lower healthcare costs, protect the environment, improve the economy, and help bring the pandemic to an end. (In my day job I've worked to help make sure that we have several executive branch officials in place who genuinely care about the public interest and are on board with such a program.) Beyond what's on this list, I'd add that Biden should also use his executive powers to end our involvement in the war in Yemen and to make sure we release funds to the people of Afghanistan, whose suffering is compounded by our refusal to allow access to their central bank reserves."

Central New York progressive Steven Holden, a veteran who served in Afghanistan, was on a similar page: "Whereas as I support all of the initiatives by the CPC, I recommend demanding that President Biden reverse the action to withhold sending money than would help Afghan families who are still trying to unite who are still stuck in Afghanistan. There are numerous families in our district who need that money to help loved ones who we are still trying to get out from under the Taliban regime."

State Senator Vincent Fort, a progressive congressional candidate who was just endorsed by Nina Turner, told me this afternoon that "The priorities that the Progressive Caucus outlined today are important policy issues that the president should use his executive powers for in this progressive moment. These priorities along with voting rights are needed to give people of color and working people in Atlanta's close-in suburbs the economic and political relief and agency that they need to fulfill their legitimate economic and political aspirations."

There are 55 proposals organized to fit 8 general categories. It doesn't include anything that CPC members are pushing but that Biden opposes-- like Medicare For All. These are all proposals that the White House generally supports, or at least says it does:

Lower Health Care Costs

● Make health care more affordable by changing the current determination of

eligibility for a family’s ACA premium subsidies, which is based on whether the

available employer-sponsored insurance is affordable for the employee, rather

than for the whole family. Fixing this “family glitch” in the Affordable Care Act

would provide relief to 5.1 million people.

● Protect seniors’ ability to manage their own care in traditional Medicare by

quickly transitioning away from the ACO REACH pilot program, which allows

third-party middlemen to manage care without seniors’ full understanding or

prior consent, and often through for-profit businesses with incentives to restrict


● Use existing legal authorities to dramatically lower costs of essential drugs like

insulin, naloxone, hepatitis C drugs, HIV/AIDS drugs, Xtandi, EpiPens, and


● Build public manufacturing capacity to ensure availability of critical medicines

such as insulin at lower cost.

● Guarantee lower drug prices and protect taxpayer investments in research and

development by requiring all government funding contracts to include a

reasonable-pricing clause using a standard such as the median price in other

OECD countries, as well as


licensing conditions to ensure affordable global

● Make medications cheaper by allowing the personal importation of drugs.

● Negotiate licensing agreements that require manufacturers to share production methods and invoke legal authorities to ensure broad technology transfer so that new manufacturing plants can be built around the world.

● Expand public manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic

production, and future public use for critical drugs . Publicly release all Operation Warp Speed contracts with manufacturers in an unredacted form to provide greater transparency into pricing, intellectual property, delivery and distribution, and donation terms of agreement.

● Redouble multilateral efforts to secure a global emergency waiver for monopoly

rights on COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

● Put government-owned intellectual property related to the Walter Reed pan-

coronavirus vaccine candidate in the public domain, and actively share

technology with the World Health Organization’s technology access pool and manufacturers throughout the world to ensure that if the vaccine candidate is

proven safe and effective, there will be fair pricing and adequate supply and

access globally.

● Support a new issuance of International Monetary Fund global emergency

reserves at no cost to U.S. taxpayers so that developing countries can purchase

vaccines, treatments, protect public health budgets, and spur global demand for

U.S. exports.

Cancel Federal Student Loan Debt

● Put money back in the pockets of millions of Americans who are stuck in the

student debt trap-- preventing them from buying homes, starting families, and

investing in their communities-- by using existing administrative authority

under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to cancel federal

student loan debt.

Expand Worker Power and Raise Wages

● Give millions of workers more take-home pay by strengthening outdated overtime protections. Provide at least one-and-a-half times the regular pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek to millions more workers

by quickly initiating the rulemaking process to update the salary threshold for workers eligible for overtime, in line with the historical high point of the 55th percentile of earnings of full-timed salaried workers nationwide, amounting to at least $82,732 by 2026. Implement automatic updates to prevent the erosion of the salary threshold over time.

● Provide generous sick leave, overtime, vacation, and other benefits by strengthening Service Contract Act regulations and guidance, addressing misclassification of low-wage workers and use existing authority to ensure that bidders prioritize retention and quality staffing.

● Require that federal contractors remain neutral in union organizing campaigns; narrow the gap between CEO and worker pay; have no violations of labor union rights; divulge company and individual contributions to candidates, parties or third-party political groups in the past two years; and have not paid a penalty or settled a claim in connection with the violation of an EPA regulation in the preceding five years.

● Protect high-risk workers including farm workers, construction workers, and

warehouse workers from dangerous heat and wind conditions caused by climate

change by developing workplace heat and wind standards.

● Ensure high wages from federal projects by modernizing regulations related to

the Davis Bacon Act, which establishes a prevailing wage for construction

workers on federally funded projects. Reverse Reagan-era rules that undermined

the ability of the Department of Labor to accurately collect wage data.

● Ensure that all grants for infrastructure projects, to the extent allowed by law,

require the use of a trained, certified workforce and apply labor standards—

particularly on projects aimed at deployment of electric-vehicle charging stations.

● Build on existing memoranda of understanding between the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division and the National Labor Relations Board that coordinate efforts to enforce labor and wage standards by creating new MOUs between other executive branch organizations like the Department of Defense. ● Promote the protection and robust enforcement of labor, employment and civil rights by ensuring that all workers, regardless of immigration status, can exercise their rights, by providing immigration protections and access to work authorizations to safeguard against retaliation.

Advance Immigrants’ Rights

● Provide immediate and urgently needed relief for those coming from countries in crisis by designating or re-designating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for

people already present in the United States. Protect current TPS recipients, and

newly designate or redesignate countries eligible for TPS or DED, such as

Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hong

Kong, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia,

South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen.

● Ensure fairness in the immigration court system by removing nonpriority cases

from the 1.6 million case backlog, expanding government-funded legal counsel

for adults and children, and ending the use of expedited proceedings that

compromise due process such as immigration adjudication centers that operate

without oversight.

● Stop the expansion of private prisons to detain immigrants; terminate or decline renewal of all current private prison contracts; and support community-based alternatives to detention, including community-based case management.

Specifically, transition ICE’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP)

to alternatives to detention that are operated outside of ICE by non-profit

community-based organizations with expertise serving immigrant communities.

● Provide access to a fair asylum process by ending the use of Remain in Mexico

(MPP) and Title 42 expulsions and border closure, and working to re-open closed

ports of entry to people seeking protection in coordination with local non-profit

groups and shelters.

● Combat racial profiling while fostering greater public safety and community trust by ending all 287(g) agreements, which deputize state and local law enforcement officers to perform certain functions of federal immigration agents. Prohibit the Department of Homeland Security from entering into new such agreements, including both Warrant Service Officer and Jail Enforcement Model agreements.

● Redress the harms of Trump’s Muslim Ban and additional, related presidential proclamations, so that those unfairly burdened or rejected under Muslim Ban are able to secure status, obtain lost green cards, and secure other basic services without additional burdens. ● Raise wages and improve labor safeguards and protections so that employers can no longer use the H-2B visa program to underpay and exploit migrant workers and U.S. workers. ● Increase wage requirements in the H-1B visa program so they reflect true market rates and allocate H-1B visas by prioritizing employers seeking highly skilled workers and paying fair wages.

Deliver on the Promise of Equal Justice Under The Law

● Fight cost increases for working families and protect workers by developing an

inter-agency task force to investigate, prosecute, and deter white-collar crime,

including anti-competitive and price-gouging business behaviors as well as firms’

exploitation of heightened inflation to pad profits; tax fraud and evasion by

corporations and wealthy individuals; and employers’ workplace safety

violations, wage theft, anti-union retaliation, and other violations of labor law.

● Fulfill the President’s promise of assembling a taskforce on prosecutorial

discretion to collect and implement best practices and innovations at the state

and local levels to reduce over-criminalization, such as ending cash bail and

declining to prosecute smaller crimes to advance racial and economic justice.

● Build on the success of alleviating prison overcrowding and mass incarceration

made by the pandemic home confinement program, by ensuring that the Bureau

of Prisons effectively implements the Attorney General’s strong

● Build on President Obama’s executive action to demilitarize law enforcement by directing the Department of Defense to revise its 1033 program and prevent the transfer of certain excess military-grade weaponry to federal, tribal, state, and local police, including grenade launchers, weaponized drones, long-range acoustic devices, armored military vehicles, grenades, and other explosives.

● Make police departments more transparent and accountable to the public by

collecting and publishing data on the use of force in police departments across

the country.

● Help reduce the use of deadly force by police officers by establishing strict

national standards governing the use of force and require immediate application

of these standards to all federal law enforcement agencies and condition federal

grants on their adoption at the state and local level.

● Build on President Obama’s executive action to demilitarize law enforcement by directing the Department of Defense to revise its 1033 program and prevent the transfer of certain excess military-grade weaponry to federal, tribal, state, and local police, including grenade launchers, weaponized drones, long-range acoustic devices, armored military vehicles, grenades, and other explosives.

• Issue an executive order to establish a new Division of Community Safety within the Department of Health and Human Services to advance non-carceral

responses to safety, including overseeing research, providing technical assistance

for jurisdictions, funding grant programs on initiatives like violence interruption, mentorship, assistance for survivors and vulnerable youth; and coordinating

among other federal agencies around non-carceral community safety approaches.

• Build on the President’s comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence by

establishing an Office of Gun Violence Prevention to streamline, coordinate, and

implement relevant executive orders across federal agencies.

Combat the Climate Crisis and Reduce Fossil Fuel Dependence

• Ensure the federal government leverages its vast purchasing power to accelerate homegrown clean energy technologies that cut costs for American families by developing strong rules for implementing the Executive Order on Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability. Regulations should include equity, labor, and environmental

• Declare a National Climate Emergency and invoke authorities under the Defense Production Act and Trade Expansion Act, mobilizing domestic industry to manufacture affordable renewable energy technologies with good paying union jobs for domestic use and international export; reinstate the crude oil export ban; and build reliable, distributed renewable energy systems in frontline communities most affected by the dirty and unjust energy complex.

● Declare a ban on new fossil fuel leases on federal lands and waters and in environmental justice communities.

● Save taxpayers billions of dollars by ending both domestic and international federal fossil fuel subsidies. ● Direct the State Department, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Development Finance Corporation, and USAID to phase out all U.S. government financing for fossil fuel projects and related infrastructure overseas and finance only clean energy infrastructure and climate mitigation and adaptation measures. Use the U.S.’ voice and vote at IMF, World Bank and IDB to advance the same goals.

● Protect Americans’ health and save tens of thousands of lives annually by

updating and strengthening outdated standards limiting particulate matter,

ozone, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, coal ash, and tailpipe emissions,

as well as lead and copper rules preventing contamination of drinking water.

● Finalize new methane standards for new and existing oil and gas operations.

Make these standards strong enough to cut methane pollution at least 65 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

● Direct the EPA to designate greenhouse pollutants as criteria air pollutants and

set a science-based national pollution cap under the Clean Air Act.

● Ensure at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investments in

climate and clean energy go to disadvantaged communities by establishing

Justice 40 implementation guidelines for all agencies, including definitions and

metrics; mandatory data collection, mapping, and monitoring of distribution of

funds to disadvantaged communities; and oversight of the social, economic, and

environmental impacts of funds. Ensure that environmental justice communities

receive the technical support needed to secure access to federal funds.

● Issue a strengthened and more robust executive order on addressing

environmental justice that will hold agencies accountable for reducing

disproportionate environmental impacts on frontline communities.

Invest in Care Economy Jobs & Standards

● Ensure veterans’ access to home care, including by allowing veterans to use

consumer-directed models to access crucial in-home care while providing direct-

care workers serving veterans with supports and pay to guarantee recruitment

and retention of an adequate workforce.

● Grow strong child care unions by encouraging widespread adoption of strong

labor standards and bedrock funding, creating opportunities for worker

engagement and voice, and using rulemaking to stabilize the workforce and

create a path to unionization for child care workers.

● As outlined by President Biden in his State of the Union proposals, protect

nursing home residents and improve quality of care by establishing minimum

staffing standards for skilled nursing facilities, with an ongoing role for labor

management processes on staffing and care issues. Address workforce shortages

by expanding training opportunities and tying Medicaid payments to adequate

wages. Require greater transparency about ownership and financing of homes in

order to ensure that public funds are used to provide care, rather than pad the

profits of corporate owners.

● Robust implementation of the Medicaid Equal Access Rule to reflect the

important role of the workforce in ensuring access to health services, including

establishing a public process to ensure that payment levels for home care

providers are adequate, and that rate increases are passed on to workers in the

form of higher wages.

Regulate for Economic and Tax Fairness

● Curb abuse of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s Opportunity Zone program in which

wealthy investors shield capital gains from taxes by promulgating new

regulations that the Treasury Department annually certify Opportunity Zone

funds fulfill all the program’s requirements, including 90 percent of an

investment being made in an Opportunity Zone itself and robust reporting


● Raise billions by closing the carried interest loophole that lets Wall Street

executives managing other peoples’ money disguise part of their salary as investment returns to cut their taxes; currently, investment income of wealthy

money managers is taxed at the capital gains rate of 20 percent, whereas their

wage income is taxed at 37 percent.

● Fight unfair tax evasion by the wealthy through IRS authority to require

reporting by financial institutions on large deposits related to business

transactions without encroaching on the financial privacy for average account


● Reverse Trump administration regulations that further expanded the offshore tax loopholes created by the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Promulgate new

regulations to close transfer pricing loopholes, prevent earnings stripping, reform

the abuse of foreign tax credits, and protect and expand the U.S. source taxation


● Advance corporate transparency through a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose information about their exposure to climate-related risks, including: the company’s direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions; the total amount of fossil fuel-related assets the company owns or manages; the company’s expected valuation if climate change continues at its current pace or greenhouse gas emissions are restricted to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal; and the company’s risk management strategies related to the physical risks and transition risks posed by the climate crisis.

Long Island progressive Melanie D'Arrigo, running for the open North Shore seat against a pack of corporate establishment shills told me that "Republican and corporate obstruction stalled President's Biden's Build Back Better agenda. But he can still make good on his promises to the American people to lower health care costs, curb corruption at the hands of corporations and the wealthy, and provide millions of jobs by investing in green energy and manufacturing. I urge President Biden to use executive action to enact his agenda-- and when I'm in Congress, I will fight to deliver progressive policies for New York families and every American, no matter what corporate-owned Democrats and Republicans stand in my way."

Southeast L.A. Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia, a candidate for the open seat in her part of town, noted that "On so many issues from immigration reform to student debts, President Biden doesn't need to have Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin on speed dial. He can just sign the order. Here's one based on my AB 617 Clean Air environmental justice law. Ensure 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy go where it's needed more by establishing definitions and metrics; mandatory data collection, mapping, and monitoring of the distribution of funds to community groups directly on the ground to create and fund their own community action plans. Do it, President Biden, do it! Our frontline communities need your signature now!"

Daniel Lee is mayor of Culver City and the progressive candidate for an open West Side congressional seat. "I applaud the progressive caucus for making active recommendations to the President in regards to what he can do through executive action," he told me. "We must destroy the myth that presidents are powerless without congressional support to move on the items embedded in their platforms during their campaigns. Often this learned helplessness is just a cover. However, I would love to see a similar list of policy priorities sent to the Democratic Party itself outlining the overwhelmingly popular policies and steps that can be taken to make sure that Dems retain control of the House and Senate in November. These would include; Passing Medicare 4 All, passing the PRO Act, ending Qualified Immunity & working towards the transformation of public safety, retooling our racist immigration system, and taxing the wealth and earnings of millionaires and billionaires.The President isn't the only one who needs to step up."

If you want to see a more progressive Congress and, as Daniel suggested, a more progressive Democratic Party, please consider contributing to each of the candidates bolded above. They are all on this Act Blue page. And if you click on the 2022 Blue America congressional thermometer on the left, you will also reach the contribution page. Were their any candidates whose ideas you especially felt enthusiasm for? Give to that person or those people. And remember, in grassroots campaigns, even small contributions build the apparatus that gets these candidates over the finish line.

Addressing her constituents in Seattle this afternoon, Pramila Jayapal noted that "If President Biden takes the actions we’re recommending, here are just some of the positive outcomes we'll see:

  • 38 million people will pay less money for their prescription drugs

  • 43 million borrowers will be relieved of the heavy burden of student loan debt

  • Millions of workers will get a raise after we increase the overtime eligibility threshold

  • Millions of workers will get paid sick leave and vacation time

  • Immigrants coming from countries in crisis will immediately be offered refuge

  • Reducing mass incarceration and stopping the expansion of private prisons for immigrant detention

  • Closing loopholes to make sure Wall Street is paying their fair share of taxes

  • Investments in clean energy, clean air, and clean water to save lives and our planet

There is so much we can do right now to help families struggling to pay their bills and crises that threaten our communities and our planet."


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