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Progressives Are Coming to Terms With Their Lack of Influence

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The progressive faction of the Democratic Party hasn’t been doing so well over the past year. But to hear them tell it, they are sitting pretty even though they have not been able to get much of their agenda passed.

Politico reported that despite having most of their preferred policies stripped from President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act to make it more palatable for the moderate faction of the party, the progressive wing is attempting to spin this into something resembling a victory. The authors reported:

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, described the $1.7 trillion social policy bill as just about the best-case scenario, a notable acknowledgment of the microscopic Democratic majorities that have bedeviled liberals all year long. And neither Jayapal nor her members are seriously talking about tanking the Senate’s version of the bill when it comes back to the House for a final green light — if it can get past the further cuts and delays that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) appears likely to exact.

During an interview, Jayapal noted that “What we’re trying to do is make sure it stays as good as possible. We are now counting on the Senate to make sure to preserve it.”

Jayapal and her comrades are touting the fact that at least some of what they wanted has been included in the bill. Politico noted that “there’s plenty for progressives to like in their party’s bill to expand the social safety net, from universal pre-K to more than $500 billion for climate change.” However, the authors also pointed out that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “threatens to wield a one-man veto pen over their ambitions and push the bill into next year.”

The senator has already made good on that promise. However, even if the bill is taken up next year, it can be expected that he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will demand that more far-left proposals be slashed from the hulking $1.7 trillion mass of a bill.

The article notes that it is going to be difficult for progressive representatives to sell the hacked-up version of the bill as a victory if it is passed. “[P]olicies such as paid family leave, immigration, drug price negotiation and subsidized childcare are in jeopardy — facing Manchin’s opposition and the labyrinthine budget rules of the upper chamber,” the authors wrote.

“There are always people who are like, ‘you need to do more,’ and it’s true. We do,” Jayapal acknowledged, pointing out that they just “don’t have enough control.”

Previously, the progressive faction stalled the passage of the infrastructure bill because the moderate wing refused to include their socialist proposals. However, their pleas went unheeded, and they were forced to accept a watered-down version of the legislation. The authors observe that the fact that Jayapal and her minions are not threatening to hold up the Senate’s version of the bill “suggests they recognize the limits of their leverage in a divided Congress.”

To put it simply, the Marxist crowd just doesn’t have much pull for the time being.

At this point, it seems they have recognized the writing on the wall and have grudgingly accepted the reality that the Build Back Better Act if passed, would only be a shell of what they were pushing for throughout the process. Progressive Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) admitted that “[y]ou got to know when to hold and know when to fold.”

And fold, they are.

From Politico:

Several of the half-dozen Democrats who voted against the infrastructure bill in November seem to share that sentiment, signaling this week they were likely to support the final version of the safety net legislation, if their other option is nothing.

“I don’t really see a world in which I vote against Build Back Better, because we need those investments,” said Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.).

And Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) reserved the right to make a final assessment, but underscored that there was “no scenario where I would vote against a transformative piece of legislation.”

While much has been made of far-left members of Congress, including members of “The Squad,” it is clear that right now, they don’t have much pull in the House. Despite their prominent profiles and constant news coverage, they don’t have the numbers to make any meaningful moves that would push the nation further towards the Marxist utopia they envision. Even worse, they lost key races earlier this year.

However, it would be a mistake to assume that their movement is dead in the water. They have been planning to add more numbers to their ranks by primarying vulnerable Democrats who are not radical enough. It would be prudent to refrain from counting them out because if people are not paying attention, they might just become a force to be reckoned with.