One difference between the Covid-19 Recession and the 2008 Great Recession is that progressives in Congress have since gotten their act together. The CPC has restructured itself (starting January 3) into a disciplined, small‑d democratic political operation that will push progressive legislation on the inside while helping raise a ruckus on the outside.
Under new rules approved in November 2020, the CPC will no longer be led by two co-chairs. For the 117th Congress, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) will lead. Another change requires members to vote as a bloc on issues supported by two-thirds of the caucus. Should a member fail to adhere to this rule at least 66% of the time, they could face expulsion. In addition, members must attend CPC meetings and respond to requests from the caucus whip (currently Minnesota’s Rep. Ilhan Omar) about where they stand on issues.
If some CPC members find the new rules unacceptable, no sweat. Jayapal made clear she “would rather have people who are really committed to the Progressive Caucus in the caucus and participating rather than sort of just having it as a label.”
Bowman greeted news of the reforms with a tweet: “Ready to flex our muscle and join the era of collective progressive power.”
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has restructured itself into a disciplined, small-d democratic political operation.
Jayapal, who entered Congress in 2016 (after a 20-year career as a community organizer), admits in an interview with Seattle’s alternative weekly, The Stranger, that it will become all but impossible to pass progressive legislation should Republicans control the Senate. “Then we have to use an inside/outside strategy like the one I was part of when we got Obama to agree to [the Dream Act],” Jayapal says. “We may have to be the wind behind the sails that helps Joe Biden and Kamala Harris deliver change through executive action, if we can’t do it legislatively.”
Because the Democratic majority in the House is so slim — just 13 seats — a united CPC could even extract the concessions from House leadership so desperately needed right now: eviction moratoriums, student debt relief, unemployment assistance.
Of course there will be all kinds of whining from centrist Democrats and thsoe who just don’t like the style of the Progressive Caucus becuase they don’t seem like team players. But let’s clear–Biden’s economic plans around COVID that he announced yesterday are so far to the left of what they would have been 10 years ago or so because of this kind of organizing and left pressure from both within and outside the party. Biden’s always been at the center of his own party and he moves where that goes. What people such as Abigail Spanberger or Kurt Schrader don’t get is that this is a good thing for the nation.
Jayapal bringing actual organizing principles to the CPC could be a really great boon for progressive policy.