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Pramila Jayapal credits member unity for progressive victories
The Progressive Caucus chairwoman took a pre-midterms victory lap and outlined how House Democrats would approach the next Congress — win or lose.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Over the next 36 days, congressional Democrats across the country will remind you of all they and President Joe Biden were able to accomplish on your behalf with the slimmest of majorities in both chambers.
And the way Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal sees it, none of the major legislative achievements her party notched would have been possible without the influence and initiative of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in which she currently serves as chairwoman.
“Our Progressive Caucus is 101 members strong — really smart, talented people who have a lot of lived experience on issues and are very diverse,” the congresswoman from Washington state said to Supercreator this afternoon. “And I think that we have been able to build a lot of unity not just among Progressive Caucus members, but also bringing in members from other parts of the Democratic caucus and showing how progressive ideas actually are mainstream in a lot of cases.”
Jayapal added that this approach created an enormous amount of goodwill amongst her members and helped people feel like they were part of something bigger and part of a fight that was really important.
In Jayapal’s mind, the signature win for the Progressive Caucus was the American Rescue Plan — the first major law President Biden signed just months after he took office that sent people a second stimulus check and expanded the Child Tax Credit, a provision that cut child poverty in half before expiring last December.
“The bill kickstarted an economic recovery that has seen wages rise, more than eight million jobs created unemployment the lowest has been in five decades,” she said, despite criticism from Republican critics that the trillions of dollars in spending greased the skids for the historic inflation has dogged our economy. (Democrats will tell you that those high costs you’re paying on everything from rent to food are because of shabby supply chains decimated by a once-in-a-generation pandemic and the war in Ukraine.)
Jayapal also pointed to the CHIPS and Science Act, a law that invests in both US production of semiconductors that power our electronics and research innovation.
Every House progressive voted for the bill because the CPC negotiated an agreement with the Commerce Department to ensure that there were guardrails against corporate self-enrichment and stock buybacks that went even further than the legislation itself.
Jayapal argued that The Build Back Better Act that passed the House last year before ultimately stalling in the Senate paved the way for the passage of The Inflation Reduction Act, the health care, climate and tax bill congressional Democrats voted for in August.
Additionally, it was House progressives in tandem with the Progressive Caucus, Jayapal will remind you, who last month made sure the police funding bills that cleared the House included the kinds of accountability provisions that didn’t advance in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
In addition to the unity Jayapal spoke of, a CPC aide told Supercreator that the new rules that members adopted ahead of this Congress were critical to the organization’s success. For example, members are now expected to vote with official caucus positions. The Progressive Caucus also moved from two co-chairs to one and instituted requirements for meeting attendance and response to questions from the whip, who is responsible for counting the votes. The aide said the caucus also regularly surveys its members to determine endorsements of bills too.
Jayapal said these results have won the argument for the caucus’s full economic agenda to expand Medicare, enact universal child care, enforce and strengthen anti-monopoly laws, support workers and unions, codify the right to abortion care and pass voting rights.
“This is a fight for our country,” she said in what sounded like a preview of the message you can expect Democrats to campaign on for the next six weeks. “It’s a fight for the working class in this country. It’s a fight for people of color in this country.
Jayapal added that the legislative wins disprove the assumption that progressives are unable to govern.
“I would say that this session has shown over and over again how while we are always pushing for me and creating the movement to get more and to really bring the Congress along where the country is, we can also govern,” she said.
House progressives were also lambasted by their own colleagues and outside pundits for allowing their legislative ambitions to obstruct the political reality in a congress with thinner margins than we’ve seen in years.
“The progressive movement in general has been sort of portrayed as being, in some ways, sort of diametrically opposed to many of the things going on here. And I just don’t think that that framing a lot of people have taken is right,” a source close to the Biden administration said to Supercreator. “I think more than anything there has been a united front in terms of making sure that everyone is included, we’re all working through things together. I think those things we’ve all been very consistent on throughout the term of this presidency and Congress so far.”
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for additional comment.
Jayapal mentioned that she was elected the same night as former President Donald Trump and spent her first two years in the House minority. And House Republicans only need to gain five seats this November to return Jayapal back to where she started.
“I can tell you: I really hope we don’t go into the minority,” she said. “It is not fun. It is a defensive fight.”
In a House Republican majority, Jayapal said Democrats would be tasked with opposing “extreme MAGA Republicans” who “want to do scurrilous investigations and [strip] away of freedoms instead of providing opportunity for people.”
But although the impulse is to be in reactionary opposition to the party in power’s agenda, Jayapal said Democrats also have to lay out their vision of what they would do differently if they were still running the show.
“We have a lot to run on in terms of a proposition agenda,” she said. “And so we've got to keep that work up.”
She made a prediction too: “I do think in almost any scenario, we do stand to increase the number of progressives as a total of [House] Democrats.”
Besides gaining two Senate seats and Jayapal running for a House leadership position, a move she confirmed she’s considering, I asked her what else the Progressive Caucus could do to expand its influence next Congress.
“One of the things that we have really been working on is building the relationship of House progressives and Senate progressives. We are really looking to continue our organizing force both in the House but also in the Senate,” she said. “And I think, depending on what happens in the House, continuing to champion not only leveraging progressive power, but also the relationships across the House Democratic Caucus will be really important.”
The Progressive Caucus could also roll out its initial agenda before the end of the year, which will most likely pick up where this Congress left off.
“I think most of us know what that is. It’s finishing the rest of Build Back Better. It’s codifying those freedoms that I mentioned, moving some of the bills that we know, if we had a couple more votes in the Senate for eliminating the filibuster or reforming the filibuster that we could get through, those will be top of mind and immediate priorities to get done as quickly as possible.”
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HURRICANE FIONA RESPONSE
President Biden this afternoon announced more than $60 million in funding from the infrastructure law he signed last November to help Puerto Rico rebuild a more secure and resilient infrastructure.
The federal resources will go towards shoring up levees, strengthening flood walls and creating a new flood warning system to help Puerto Rico become better prepared for future storms.
“I’m heading to Puerto Rico because they haven’t been taken very good care of,” the president told reporters this morning as he departed the White House. “They’ve been trying like hell to catch up from the last hurricane. I want to see the state of affairs today and make sure we push everything we can.”
Deanne Criswell, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said this afternoon during a Q&A session aboard Air Force One her department still did not know how much the recovery would cost. Still, estimates are in the billions, far more than the total Biden announced today.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted during the Q&A that the new funding is in addition to the $2 billion already allocated to Puerto Rico from the infrastructure law before taking a shot at the Trump administration.
“The last administration, as I said at the top, restricted [the] ability for Puerto Rico to access $5 billion in funds for critical recovery and reconstruction needs,” she said. “If you think about were the president is going today, he’s going to the most hardest-hit area of Puerto Rico and it is an area that presidents have gone before.” Jean-Pierre said this is evidence of the president and first lady’s commitment to the people of Puerto Rico to go to an area where people have lost almost everything. (The White House last week released a fact sheet with additional information on the administration’s Fiona response.)
The president also met with families and community leaders impacted by the hurricane and participated in a service project to help pack bags with food and other essential items. They also thanked federal and local officials for their work to help the commonwealth recover and rebuild.
He will travel to Florida on Wednesday to survey the damage from Hurricane Ian.
The Supreme Court today kicked off its new term during which the justices will hear arguments on affirmative action, voting, religion, free speech and LGBTQ+ rights, issues the court’s conservative supermajority is expected to flex its power.
Now that former Justice Stephen Breyer has retired, a legal expert told me he’s paying close attention to see what the dynamic of this new court will be as Justice Clarence Thomas seeks to make his mark on the court.
“If we look at the point of intersection between seniority and authority, the only justice at the top is Justice Thomas,” the expert said. “[While] there may be better conservative jurists, such as Amy Coney Barrett, she simply does not have the sway with the court that Justice Thomas does and will for the forseeable future.”
In terms of interesting cases to watch, the court this morning heard arguments on a dispute over uncashed MoneyGram checks.
30 states argue that MoneyGrams are checks so unclaimed ones go to the state where they were purchased. Delaware, where MoneyGram is incorporated, says they aren’t checks and unclaimed money should stay in-state. At stake is $400 million.
James Romoser has a nice case explainer at SCOTUSblog.
The court on Friday held a special ceremony to officially welcome Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who replaced her mentor Justice Breyer and is expected to settle into his spot on the court’s liberal minority.
“It is my pleasure to extend you a very warm welcome,” Chief Justice John Roberts said to Jackson, the first Black woman to sit on the court, after she took her oath.
October is National Pedestrian Safety Month and the Transportation Department is marking the occasion with four weeks of programming to spotlight a different aspect of a strategy Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced in January to reduce traffic fatalities.
Safer People: Week 1 celebrates the many benefits of walking and how we can encourage more walking by creating a safer system for people who walk or roll.
Safer Speeds & Safer Roads: Week 2 recognizes the importance of how motorists driving at safer speeds can save lives and highlights the vital role that safer roads play in reducing fatal crashes and injuries.
Safer Vehicles: Week 3 looks at vehicles that provide occupant crash protection, and technology can help prevent crashes from occurring in the first place. Technologies like pedestrian automatic emergency braking can help protect those outside of the vehicle.
Post-Crash Care: Week 4Focuses on providing bystander assistance and care to injured pedestrians, which may be critical in treating injuries and saving lives.
“We live in an era when it is safer to fly in an airplane 30,000 feet above the ground than it is to walk down the street,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “This National Pedestrian Safety Month, we must redouble our efforts to address the urgent national crisis on our nation’s roads and do everything in our power to keep pedestrians safe.”
6,516 pedestrians were killed in the United States in 2020 — an average of 18 pedestrians a day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And in 2021, pedestrian fatalities were projected to be up 13 percent over 2020. People who are American Indian and Alaska Native are almost three times more likely to die walking than the general public, on a per 100,000 person basis. Black people are more than 50 percent more likely to die walking than the general public, on the same basis.
The Transporation Department said it will announce in the coming months the awards for the Safe Streets & Roads for All Discretionary Grant Program, a program the agency launched that makes up to $1 billion per year for the next five years available for local communities to make our streets safer for people walking.
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TODAY IN POLITICS
President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden this morning traveled to Ponce, Puerto Rico where he received a briefing on Hurricane Fiona and spoke about the role of the federal government in the commonwealth’s rebuilding process. The president and first lady also visited a local school to meet with families and community leaders impacted by the hurricane and participate in a service project. The Bidens will arrive back at the White House this evening.
Biden’s week ahead:
Wednesday: The president and first lady will travel to Florida as the state recovers from Hurricane Ian.
Friday: Biden will travel to Wilmington, Delaware for the weekend.
Vice President Harris is in Washington, DC and had no public events on her schedule.
Harris’s week ahead:
Tuesday: The vice president will speak at the Freedman’s Bank Forum at the Treasury Department. The conference is designed to highlight the administration’s work to increase economic opportunity and growth for communities of color and address the racial wealth gap. She will also convene the Reproductive Health Care Access task force later in the day.
Wednesday: Vice President Harris will travel to New Britain, Connecticut to promote the White House’s work on protective reproductive rights. She will join a conversation moderated by Democratic Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut and Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Saturday: The vice president will travel to Austin to give the keynote speech at the Texas Democratic Party Johnson-Jordan Reception, an annual event to celebrate the legacies of former President Lyndon B. Johnson and former Rep. Barbara Jordan. Harris will also meet with reproductive rights advocates.
The House and Senate are out.
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