House Progressives outline the path ahead for Biden’s unfulfilled campaign promises
The 98-member coalition of left-leaning Democrats put forward an agenda that would bypass the legislative gridlock that has stalled much of the president’s economic ambitions.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Friday morning and Happy National Awkward Moments Day. Let’s catch up.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
The Progressive Caucus unveiled a sweeping agenda that outlines eight critical policy areas for President Joe Biden to take executive action on and bypass the legislative gridlock that has stalled much of his economic ambitions.
The 98-member coalition, which represents the most-left wing of the modern Democratic Party, developed the agenda in consultation with grassroots progressive movements and focused on proposals it believes are clearly within the president’s executive authority: (1) lowering health care costs, (2) canceling federal student loan debt, (3) expanding worker power and raising wages (4) advancing immigrants’ rights, (5) delivering on the promise of equal justice under law, (6) combatting the climate crisis and reducing fossil fuel dependence, (7) investing in care economy jobs and standards and (8) regulating for economic and tax fairness.
“Progressives understand our mandate in this governing moment: Deliver for working people and leave no one behind,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and chair of the Progressive Caucus said on Thursday during a press call with reporters on the agenda.
Jayapal said the caucus views executive action not as a substitute for legislation but as one of many tools in the Democratic Party’s toolbox to demonstrate to voters that their government keeps its promises.
And while Democrats were critical of what it viewed as executive overreach by Donald Trump, Jayapal said the difference here is that President Biden’s actions would benefit working Americans while Trump centered rich and wealthy people and big corporations with his.
A White House spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the role it feels executive action plays as a mechanism to advance President Biden’s legislative agenda.
“There are a range of really good ideas out there,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday during a press briefing. “The president is looking at all of them.”
Psaki declined to specify if, when and on which issues Biden would consider executive action on in the months ahead.
The caucus said it plans to formally meet with the White House to discuss the agenda soon.
It’s impossible not to consider the proposal within the context of the upcoming midterm elections, where prognosticators have spelled doom for congressional Democrats.
And while Jayapal said the party has plenty of results to run on this year, including the American Rescue Plan to the bipartisan infrastructure bill and more, she also said that everything Democrats can deliver between now and November can bolster their efforts to protect and expand their House and Senate majorities.
It’s also worth noting that this agenda arrives as the US responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and navigates the next stage of the pandemic.
So I asked Jayapal how the caucus planned to promote its agenda to weary voters who believe in the caucus’s priorities but are skeptical that Democrats view them with the same urgency as they do.
She told me that partnerships with other progressive organizations would be a key component to rallying communities around the agenda and applying pressure on the administration to take action.
“Tremendous progress has been made,” Jayapal said. “But that work is far from done.”
The House is scheduled to vote this morning on the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, also known as the CROWN Act, which would ban discrimination based on a person’s hair texture.
The bill passed on a voice vote without objection in 2020, but failed on the last day of February to meet the two-thirds majority threshold needed to pass under expedited rules. Members approved a rule on Wednesday to pass the legislation with a simple majority today.
“House Republicans have chosen to give into the climate of division and obstruction, and block the CROWN Act, a bill meant to end race-based hair discrimination,” Democratic Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement last month along with co-leads Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Barbara Lee of California, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. “We won’t allow Republican antics to stand in the way of Black people having the right to live as their authentic selves.”
For generations, people from historically marginalized communities have used chemicals to straighten their hair or worn cropped styles to assimilate to European beauty standards at the expense of their own heritage.
Black women with natural hairstyles — curly afros, braids or twists — are often perceived as less professional and Black women with straightened hair, particularly in industries where norms dictate a more conservative appearance, according to a 2020 study by researchers at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
The CROWN Act would make it illegal to disfavor someone based on their hair texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.
These protections would extend to those participating in federally assisted programs, public accommodations and employment.
A spokesperson for Rep. Watson Coleman’s office told me that most House Republicans have leaned into the rhetoric of culture wars and the CROWN Act became another front on that war.
Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, the bill’s Republican co-sponsor, is from a state that has already passed a bill like the CROWN Act into law.
“I’d imagine he supports it because the knows it’s the right thing to do and knows that the negative implications proposed by Republican opponents haven’t come to pass.”
One of the GOP opponents to the CROWN Act is Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who referred to it as “the bad hair” bill when voting against it in February on behalf of another member.
When Tashara Parker at WFAA, an ABC-affiliated television station in Dallas, reached out to Rep. Boebert’s press team for clarification on what she’d said, they said Boebert meant to say, “It’s a bad, hair bill.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Boebert did not respond to a request for confirmation on whether she still believed the bill, not natural hair, was bad. A request for comment on what specific provisions in the legislation justified the characterization was also unanswered.
“Black women face a disruptive stigma, bias, and discrimination that impedes their progress financially, educationally, and socially,” Rep. Watson Coleman and Reps. Robin Kelly of Illinois and Yvette Clarke of New York, who co-chair the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, said last year. “The CROWN Act is among many bills poised to tear down a major barrier for this constituency — hair discrimination.”
TODAY IN POLITICS
— President Biden this morning will speak with President Xi Jinping of China to discuss the competition between the US and China and Russia’s war against Ukraine. After the meeting, the president will receive his daily intelligence briefing. Biden will meet this afternoon with researchers and patients to discuss a new health research agency designed to accelerate progress on curing cancer and other diseases. Biden will travel this evening to Delaware for the weekend.
— The House is in and will vote on the CROWN Act.
— The Senate is out.
IN THE KNOW
— WNBA star Brittney Griner will be held in Russian detention until at least May, according to a Russian court. Griner’s detainment was reported last month she was accused of carrying cannabis oil in her luggage. The White House has had little public comment on the situation because Griner’s family has not authorized a Privacy Act waiver. [Elisha Fieldstadt / NBC News]
— The US has shared over 500 million free vaccine doses to more than 110 countries and economies around the world, according to the State Department. America has also provided nearly $20 billion in health, humanitarian, economic and development assistance to over 120 countries and expanded regional vaccine manufacturing in Africa and Asia.
— Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York led a group of House Democrats in a letter to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell calling for gun reform.“Given how much is at stake, anything less than this would be a tragic, unacceptable obstruction to preventing gun violence and gun-related deaths,” Bowman wrote.
— The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission announced a series of listening sessions to hear who have experienced firsthand the effects of mergers and acquisitions. The four sessions will be held virtually over the next three months and focus on the food and agriculture, health care, media and entertainment, and technology markets. Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter and FTC Chair Lina Khan will host the sessions.
— The number of new claims for unemployment insurance fell for the first time below the pre-pandemic average in 2019, according to the Department of Labor.Also worth noting: The number of Americans who have been receiving unemployment benefits for more than a week fell to the lowest level since 1970.
— Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Admiral Rachel L. Levine, M.D., assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, held a virtual roundtable with students and families from Florida. The discussion was hosted by the White House office of public engagement and follows the passage of a controversial bill in Florida that limits what teachers can say about sexual orientation and gender identity.
— Related: Nearly eight in ten Americans favor laws that would protect gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing, including 41 percent who strongly support them, according to new research by the Public Religion Research Institute. There is currently no national law guaranteeing nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people across most categories.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
— Jenny Gross and Alyssa Lukpat on transgender people are preparing to return to the office after transitioning in private:
Data on medical transitions during the pandemic remains hard to come by, although anecdotal evidence from the interviews suggests an increase in surgeries compared to previous years. No database tracks the total number of people in the United States who undergo medical transitions each year, but seven regional and local health care providers reported stronger demand for transition operations in 2021, compared to 2020, when many surgeries were paused because of the pandemic. Demand was also higher in 2021 compared to 2019, before the pandemic.
While some of the increase can be attributed to operations that were postponed while hospitals were overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients, doctors in the field offered other explanations as well.
They note that more employers are covering transgender health care in insurance plans, that surgical techniques are becoming safer and resulting in better cosmetic outcomes, and that more hospitals are offering these services to patients.
As some people are starting to think of working from home as a long-term option, some workers like Pierre already have taken advantage of the tight labor market to leap up the corporate ladder while enjoying life without a commute.
Remote work can level the playing field for people who don’t love — or don’t have time for — schmoozing, U.K. Trade Union Congress spokesperson Alice ArkWright said. It also means employers are more willing to hire people who, for health or other reasons, couldn’t participate in the daily grind of coming to the office.
It turns out, many workers like the setup and think they’re doing better at home: 44% of Americans found that remote work made it easier for them to get work done and meet deadlines, according to a February Pew Research Center study. Women particularly seem to be finding that the new conditions benefit them, with 19% of women in the U.S. saying working from home makes it easier to advance in their jobs, compared with 9% of men, according to the Pew survey.
— Jack Shafer on why journalists love war:
Don’t get me wrong. Rushing to the front lines and reporting takes immense courage. Just look at the daring of The Associated Press’ reporters capturing the slaughter that is Mariupol. At least three journalists have been killed and another seriously injured, and those who have read or watched the news owe them an unpayable debt. But war rewards these daring men and women for their valor. Like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, war supplies reporters with an endless bounty of can’t-look-away stories, and that story is always changing. War offers scenes of raw human emotion, battlefield cliffhangers, tales about warring technologies and unbelievable visuals. (There’s a reason so many Hollywood blockbusters depict large, orange explosions.) The reporter who files eyewitness reports of tank battles or sniper exchanges can expect his copy to be painted Day-Glo orange by his editor and printed in prime space.
Ms. Abrams’s strategy amounts to a major bet that her campaign can survive a bleak election year for Democrats by capitalizing on Georgia’s fast-changing demographics and winning over on-the-fence voters who want their governor to largely stay above the fray of national political battles.
Ms. Abrams’s focus on state and hyperlocal issues reflects an understanding that to win Georgia, any Democrat must capture votes in all corners of the state. That also means knowing the issues closest to voters in every corner.
— Claire Lampen on how Missouri’s new abortion bills are a glimpse at post-Roe life:
Though a number of states have been experimenting with their own versions of Texas’s six-week ban, Missouri representative Mary Elizabeth Coleman is the first to apply its enforcement mechanism to travel. She appended her amendment, which also outlaws medication abortion, to a number of bills, empowering private citizens to sue anyone they suspect of helping residents terminate in another state. Per the Washington Post, she is targeting a large group, including but not limited to people who staff clinic phone lines, people involved in marketing clinics over the state border, and physicians themselves. Because Missouri has only one abortion clinic left, the majority of patients currently seek care elsewhere; a travel ban would be devastating, particularly given the tandem effort to wipe out medication-abortion services. Shortly after Coleman floated her amendment, Representative Brian Seitz pitched a separate measure, HB 2810, that would make it a crime for any person or entity to knowingly import, make, or in any way administer “abortion-inducing devices or drugs” throughout the state. His legislation places medication abortion — mifepristone and misoprostol, two FDA-approved substances — on par with heroin and other narcotics.
— Alissa Wilkinson on the point of the flourishing “scammer” genre:
Each retells a story, sometimes a very familiar one, often looking for the reasons the fraud or con or cult succeeded in the first place. People wanted to belong. They were suckered by privilege. They wanted money. They want independence or direction or power.
But that doesn’t quite explain why we are watching. Schadenfreude is one explanation; it’s meanly fun to watch people get suckered into a scam, and even more fun to watch the scammer get taken down. As with certain genres of reality TV, the enjoyment is in the self-comparison: Man, my life is a mess, but at least I’m not in a sex cult, or a pyramid scheme, or stranded on a beach with a cheese sandwich, or married to a guy with 17 secret wives.
You’re all caught up. Know someone who would enjoy this newsletter? Forward today’s issue to them and invite them to sign up for free. See you on Monday.