The political standoff between Democrats over President Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion climate change and welfare bill has convinced progressives that the only way to advance their agenda is to purge the moderates and take control of the party.
While some members of the far left have long supported this view, many say that the intransigence of moderate Democrats on Mr. Biden’s spending program has hardened progressives’ resolve.
“A lot of activists and donors who never thought about the primaries now understand that it’s really important that we have a business-aligned Democrat or a bold progressive in these seats,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Campaign Committee for Progressive Change. .
Groups like the PCCC, which has raised millions of dollars to fund progressive state and federal candidates, see the 2022 midterms as an opportunity to build a more ideologically uniform Democratic Party.
To that end, they believe their strongest argument to date lies in the stalled $ 3.5 trillion expansion of Mr. Biden’s social safety net.
The massive bill includes a mine of long-sought progressive priorities, including a free community college, expanded Medicare, and ambitious regulations to stop climate change. More importantly, he has the support of Mr. Biden, Democratic leaders and the majority of party lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“It’s not just a crazy progressive wishlist that no one else agrees with,” said Rep. Pramilia Jayapal, Washington Democrat and chair of the 98-member Congressional Progressive Caucus. “This is President Joe Biden’s agenda, this is the agenda on which Democrats in the House, Senate and White House were elected.”
Support for the establishment is something that has long been absent from the progressive agenda, as seen in the battle against Medicare for All. Despite the universal health care proposal that garnered the support of a large contingent of Democrats, the issue never arose from the left silo.
During his campaign for the presidential nomination last year, Mr Biden presented himself as an open opponent of the plan much to the chagrin of his main progressive challenger, the far-left icon Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont.
The shifting paradigm has progressives confident they have the upper hand. Many are already planning to use Mr. Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion support as a litmus test in the Democratic primaries next year and 2024.
“We must insist that the will of the 96% of Democrats in the House and Senate, the leadership of the President and the majority of the American people not be ignored for the misplaced priorities of 4% of our colleagues who are not yet sure. advice, ”Ms. Jayapal said.
Republicans, who already see a favorable political environment ahead of next year’s midterms, see Democratic internal struggles further strengthening their willingness to regain control of Congress.
They say ousting moderate incumbents from marginal seats and replacing them with progressives will make it easier to sweep the GOP in the general election. Democrats who can avoid the challenges of the left will likely deplete their campaign war treasures in the process and be forced to take positions well outside the mainstream.
Mike Berg, spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said such an outcome was inevitable given the left turn of the National Democratic Party.
“Today’s Democratic Party is led by far-left socialists and this is only the latest proof of this reality,” he said.
For now, the main targets of progressives in the primaries are the cadre of moderate Democrats in the House and Senate who are unwilling to acquiesce in the spending plan. Topping the list are Democrats Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
The two moderates are key to getting the package through the Senate through a special process Democrats use to force the bill through the chamber. The process, known as budget reconciliation, allows certain spending and tax measures to bypass the Senate obstruction 60-vote threshold and pass with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Because the Senate is split evenly among parties, every Democrat must be on board for the reconciliation plan to be successful. At present, Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema are the holdouts, calling for a reduction in the spending plan and a means test.
Although neither of the two lawmakers will be re-elected until 2024, progressives have started to rally. In Arizona, a political advocacy group funded by left-wing American-Hungarian billionaire George Soros has already launched a Super PAC to lay the groundwork for a main challenge to Ms. Sinema.
“Sen. Sinema blocks Biden’s agenda and obstructs popular policies, such as reducing prescription drug costs, which are supported by a large bipartisan majority of Arizonans,” said a spokesperson for Primary Sinema PAC “She’s miscalculated the policy here, and if she continues her filibuster, she’s going to face a credible primary challenge.”
One of the groups behind the PAC, Living United for Change in Arizona, filmed itself berating Ms. Sinema in a women’s restroom for opposing the spending program. Although Mr. Biden denounced such tactics, he also rejected them as part of the “political process”.
Moderate House Democrats who are reluctant to back the $ 3.5 trillion package are also in the sights of progressives, such as Reps Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey. Both represent districts Mr Biden wore comfortably last year and are prime targets for a main challenge from the left.
“The irony behind the many corporate-aligned obstructionists in the House who nearly derailed the Biden agenda is that most of them come from very blue districts where we won by 12, 18, even 40 points.” , said PCCC’s Mr. Green.