Progressive House Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the “Squad” are urging President Biden to sidestep Congress and use the power of his pen to authorize dozens of radical policies on issues like immigration, criminal justice, climate change and student loan debt.
The 98-member Congressional Progressive Caucus released a list of 55 recommendations for executive action on Thursday, months before the midterm elections in which Republicans are expected to regain control of both chambers of Congress.
Some of the eye-popping suggestions include:
- Banning new fossil fuel leases on federal territory as well as “environmental justice communities”
- Ending the Trump-era Remain in Mexico policy and the Title 42 coronavirus exclusions for illegal immigrants.
- Declaring a National Climate Emergency and invoking the Defense Production Act to increase production of renewable energy.
- Ending domestic and international fossil fuel subsidies and reinstating a ban on crude oil exports.
- Canceling student loan debt.
- Establishing national standards governing the use of deadly force by police officers, as well as removing military-grade weaponry from police departments.
“This is the time for @POTUS to take bold executive action. Let’s deliver on the agenda that more than 81 million people voted for. Let’s be guided by racial, gender and economic justice — not corporations’ bottom lines. Let’s get this done,” the caucus, which is led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), posted on its Twitter account.
“I do think we want to make sure that we’re delivering as much as we can before November, in addition to all the excellent things we’ve already done, and making sure people know what we’ve done,” Jayapal told the Washington Post in an interview published Thursday.
Progressives are still smarting from the blow delivered to their agenda by moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Both helped kill the House-passed $2 trillion Build Back Better Act and declined to change the Senate’s 60-vote legislative filibuster rule in order to pass gun control measures and sweeping election reform.
As a result, left-wingers have placed their hopes in Biden himself to implement their agenda as the window to move legislation before the midterms begins to close.
“People are realizing that, at this point in the cycle, executive order is probably where you’re going to start seeing more things get done,” Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) told Politico.
But some Democrats say that Biden’s pen should be their last hope to get their agenda passed.
“Executive action, it’s a last resort. This is a legislative body,” Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) told Politico. “But there are other important issues that need to be discussed. And if the Senate isn’t going to vote, they’re not going to vote.”
Biden issued 77 executive orders in 2021, compared to 55 issued by former President Donald Trump in his first year and 38 enacted during former President Barack Obama’s first year, according to the Federal Register.
Biden, in an October 2020 interview with ABC News, appeared to frown on the use of executive orders in place of legislating.
“Some of my Republican friends and some of my Democratic friends even occasionally say, ‘Well, if you can’t get the votes, by executive order you’re going to do something.’ … We’re a democracy. We need consensus,” the president said at the time.
The progressive list of demands emerged as the average cost of a gallon of regular gas sat at $4.289, according to AAA, a slight decrease from $4.318 a week ago.
Republicans, who have been calling for increased drilling to ease Americans’ pain at the pump, were left aghast when reports first surfaced of the progressive proposals.
“Dems want $10 gas,” wrote Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Twitter.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said Democrats “need to wake up.”
“We must unleash American energy,” he posted on Twitter.