- President Joe Biden is touting his $1.9 trillion coronavirus package as a progressive bill.
- Progressive lawmakers are also celebrating the American Rescue Plan and taking credit for it.
- The bill would become Biden’s first major legislation and represents unity within Democrats.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is on track to become the first major legislation of his administration. He’s touting it as a progressive achievement – and many progressives are on board with the sentiment.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday described the massive bill aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout as “the most progressive piece of legislation in history.”
Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and a leading champion for many of the progressive policies included in the bill, expressed a similar viewpoint over the weekend. He called the stimulus “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” upon its passage in the Senate on Saturday.
Progressives, too, are taking credit for the bill. Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the stimulus a “truly progressive and bold package that delivers on its promise to put money directly in people’s pockets.”
“We take the win,” Jayapal told Politico’s Sarah Ferris on Capitol Hill on Monday. “We believe it’s our work that made it as progressive as it is.”
The legislation, which is due for a vote in the House this week, represents unity within the Democratic Party at the start of Biden’s presidency – a development that seemed unlikely a year ago.
Progressive voters weren’t firmly in Biden’s column. He is a centrist and they had set their hopes on more left-leaning candidates, including Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, for president. After Biden clinched the Democratic nomination, he continued to pitch himself as a moderate who would unite the left and right, leaving progressives worried about whether they’d have a seat at the table with him in the White House.
However, since taking office, Biden has worked with progressives and the White House has promoted an agenda consistent with many of the left’s policy ideas.
-Ed Markey (@EdMarkey) March 6, 2021
“Progressives should be very proud of this bill,” a senior Democratic aide told Insider. “This is an absolutely terrific piece of legislation and we’re going to continue to work very closely with the Biden administration to make sure we have an economy and a government that works for all of us and not just the top 1%.”
Some of the measures included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package hailed by progressives are an expanded child tax credit, $1,400 direct payments, and housing and food assistance.
That said, progressives don’t view the legislation as perfect.
Warren called the bill “powerful” but emphasized that it is “just the start of what Congress can do for working families.”
Originally, Biden had included a provision that would have boosted the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and had the backing of progressives. However, the Senate parliamentarian, who is responsible for setting the procedural rules of the chamber, ruled against its inclusion in the final bill.
Progressives had urged the White House to overrule the decision, but these calls went unheeded. Sanders then fought to add the minimum wage hike to the package through an amendment, but did not receive enough support from his Senate colleagues. Even eight Democrats voted no.
Some progressive Democrats in the House, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, criticized the changes in the Senate bill. Yet Biden on Saturday rejected the notion that progressives were upset. “They’re not frustrated,” Biden told reporters. “Bernie Sanders said this is the most progressive bill he’s ever seen passed since he’s been here.”
Psaki on Monday said that Biden remains committed to increasing the federal minimum wage, and progressives plan to hold him to it. Still, she reiterated that the White House is currently focused on making the stimulus package become law, and many congressional progressives say the same.
“I am going to be an enthusiastic yes on this,” Jayapal told NBC News on Monday.