With minority life looming, House Progressives turn to Joe Biden

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As the final results in the US House races continue to pour in, the forecasts generally show Republicans taking back control of the chamber by a narrow margin. For Democrats all around, that’s an unwelcome reality.

But especially for House progressives, it’s a turning point.

For four years, progressives have seen their influence grow dramatically. As the Congressional Progressive Caucus grew, they became a force in policy decisions. New stars emerged with a large following and became outspoken critics of the policies of the ‘established’ left. They had established a relationship with the White House – namely Chief of Staff Ron Klain – which accelerated their position.

This includes members of the so-called “Squad”, composed of representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Rashida Tlaib (MI), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Cori Bush (MO) and Jamaal Bowman (NY) , all of whom were elected in or after 2018, when Democrats ended the Republicans’ eight-year hold in the chamber.

If the predictions of party control hold up, Republicans will not bring progressives to the negotiating table on policy. Their “no” votes on bills brought to the House of Representatives will be passed – fear not. They will not have the luxury of chairing committees or party leaders who are at least occasionally sympathetic to their cause.

And yet progressives on and off the hill who spoke to The Daily Beast in the wake of Tuesday’s results weren’t so disheartened.

After all, they have Biden to turn to.

We will have progressive members of the House pressuring the government to use executive action, the regulatory authority and its nominating powers in the most progressive way possible,” said Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of the progressive group Our Revolution spinout. of the 2016 presidential bid of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

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Geevarghese was quick to point out the victories of progressives on Tuesday night, of which there were several. New incoming party stars like 25-year-old Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-FL) or Senator-elect John Fetterman (D-FL) have the left wing ecstatic — and the fact that the Democrats held off the Republicans’ victories last week is leading them to believe that progressive policies are not so bad for running in elections.

But as much as House progressives want to maintain their momentum, a probable new reality awaits them in the next term in which almost all of their legislation will be dead on arrival. While Geevarghese thinks progressive policies have greater appeal than Republicans recognize, he is facing the constraints that a minority could bring.

“So the truth is, yes, the president will be limited by what he can pass on. The House may not be in democratic hands. But I think we have a stronger progressive bloc that will have an excessive influence on government policy,” he added.

Congressman-elect Greg Casar (D-TX) is another progressive who won his election on Tuesday night. He’s been put forward as a potential Squad member – and like all Squad already in existence, he’s an alumnus of the progressive group Justice Democrats, which has made a number of successful bids against moderate incumbents in recent years.

When asked about the role of House progressives in a likely minority, Casar didn’t mince words.

“We want to work with the government to achieve progressive victories that benefit the working people so that it is very clear who is on the side of ordinary Americans and who is on the side of big business and extremism,” he said.

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Casar pointed to Biden’s efforts to cancel student debt, which he did unilaterally without congressional approval. That didn’t necessarily sit well with Republicans or even moderate Democrats. But it got the job done for the progressive cause in a way Congress certainly wouldn’t have done.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), another leader in the progressive space who has been put forward as a future senate or presidential candidate for the left, told The Daily Beast he was surprised on Tuesday by the Democrats’ success. While politicians broadly predicted a rousing red wave, Democratic victories reduced GOP momentum to a ray of pink.

“This argument that the president working with the progressives to pass legislation will backfire turned out to be completely wrong,” Khanna said.

But Khanna did not back down on the idea that Democrats are expected to be outnumbered in the coming weeks. When asked about where their energy goes rather than legislative negotiations, a theme came up: Biden is part of that conversation.

“It’s about shaping our economic agenda further,” Khanna said of the time and energy of House progressives. “I mean, there are a lot of things the administration can do.”

“It’s looking for ways that we can get smaller things done, but in the right direction and work on legislation that can go through the House and Senate. And [being] on the front lines of the president’s re-election to shape a bold economic and social agenda,” he added.

That formula for getting even small things done in Congress can be limited. While Republicans are predicted to hold onto the majority so narrowly, if a potential chairman Kevin McCarthy manages to forge his caucus around a common goal, he won’t need Democrats to approve the policy.

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And even if the House Republicans need a few Democrats on board, they are far more likely to court the thinning population of House Democrats centrists than the growing group of progressives.

That will all be a very different conversation in the Senate. With the Nevada Senate still in toss-up territory and the Georgia Senate game heading into a second round, party control is still in the air.

But neither side will get the 60 votes it takes to break a filibuster, meaning most policies will have to go through a hard rut. Biden himself has also said he will exercise his veto over Republican policies if necessary.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Daily Beast that the ability of Democrats and progressives to work with the GOP depends on who has McCarthy’s ear.

“You know, [are] Are Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz going to pull the strings? Or is it, you know, some of them are regular Republicans?” he said.

But on the future of progressives, Pocan had a somewhat more forward-looking answer. When asked where the progressives’ energy and momentum is going now, should Republicans succeed, it sounded like he was already thinking about Democrats’ next chance to win back the House.

“We just had the best focus group in the world, the November 8 election,” he said. “And we now need to address the issues that motivated people enough to get out there and vote.”