Progressives unveil 2021 agenda to pressure Biden

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Black Lives Matter leaders, organized labor, progressive groups and members of the House Democratic “Squad” are unveiling a 2021 agenda Thursday, laying down markers for how big a Joe Biden administration could go on coronavirus aid, economic relief and more next year.

Known as the Working Families Party’s “People’s Charter,” the 1,000-word proposal calls for universal free health care, a jobs program employing 16 million people, retroactive hazard pay for essential employees and the reallocation of resources from policing toward education and other services. It also promotes giving the public an ownership stake in firms that receive bailouts, as well as buying out gas and oil companies, among other policies.

The platform, shared first with POLITICO, is the latest move from progressives as they prepare to wrangle with moderate Democrats over the scale of new government spending and programs if the party wins control of Washington. It’s part of a different strategy for progressives this year than in the 2016 election: putting more organizational muscle behind Biden than they put into backing Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but also vowing to turn around and place immediate pressure on Biden to stand with them on key issues if he is elected.

Eight members of Congress, including prominent progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, are backing the program. A handful of likely incoming House freshmen, along with the Service Employees International Union, Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives and climate advocacy group Sunrise Movement, are also on board.

“There is no doubt we need to evict Donald Trump and immediately begin the work of repairing and rebuilding stronger,” said Pressley. “Our country is facing overlapping crises of public health, economic inequality and systemic racism. The People’s Charter offers a pathway to work together toward healing and justice for everyone.”

Biden supports some of the planks of the proposal, such as free Covid-19 testing and a ban on evictions and foreclosures during the pandemic. But he has already come out against other items, such as implementing single-payer health care and reducing police funding.

“It’s putting a stake in the ground that we believe Joe Biden can become a New Deal 2.0 president,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), another member of Congress who has signed onto the plan. “He has talked about the crisis that Roosevelt faced. He has talked about wanting to have a new New Deal for the 21st century. That should be the direction he goes instead of the incrementalism of the ’90s.”

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Kendra Brooks, one of several local and state officials who are supporting the plan, added that “it’s something that gives voters some enthusiasm.”

Maurice “Moe” Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party, said the organization will promote the agenda as part of its campaign to persuade progressive voters to cast a ballot for Biden.

“We endorsed Elizabeth Warren and then we endorsed Bernie Sanders, so it’s not surprising that our party and our base have some policy differences with Joe Biden,” said Mitchell. “People, in order to be enthusiastic about voting, need to vote for something — and the People’s Charter provides folks with something that is outside of candidates’ politics to vote for. It also sets up conditions postelection to articulate that this election was a referendum on this agenda.”

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