Progressives Aim to Push a Biden Presidency Further Left

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks as, from left, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., listen during a news conference last year. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Progressive House Democrats and over 200 advocacy groups unveiled an agenda for 2021 policy priorities Thursday, calling for free Covid-19 testing and treatment, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and giving Americans universal health care.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden supports some aspects of the plan, including free Covid-19 testing, but he opposes others like universal health care, instead saying the Affordable Care Act should be improved while allowing people to keep private insurance.

While progressives are clearly throwing their support behind Biden to defeat President Donald Trump in next month’s election, the proposal indicates they will put pressure on a potential Biden administration to move further to the left if he wins the presidency.  

The so-called People’s Charter is described by the plan’s signatories as a “roadmap out of our current state of crisis, and to an America that works for the many.”

In about 1,000 words across five sections, the policy proposal states that the nation has formed supportive and close communities in light of a pandemic that has shaken the economy and taken more than 210,000 American lives. At the same time, Americans are confronting a history of systematic racism, protesting in anger and grief for reform.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” the plan states. “We can heal the wounds from the pandemic, the economic depression, and a history of racism. And we can do more. Working people can come together to make a nation that cares for all of us.”

Backers include the freshman Democrats known as “The Squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Illhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – along with other House lawmakers such as Representatives Ro Khanna of California, Jesús García of Illinois, Nydia Velázquez of New York and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.

Likely incoming House members Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush and Mondaire Jones also signed on, along with congressional candidates in contested Texas and Washington races. The Electoral Justice Program of the Movement for Black Lives, the Service Employees International Union and the New Florida Majority are just some organizations supportive of the plan.

In addition to a $15 minimum wage, universal health care and easy access to Covid-19 resources, the proposal calls for shifting resources away from policing, jails and detention centers and putting money towards health care, jobs, schools and public housing. The plan also calls for ending restrictive local zoning rules known as “redlining” and focusing economic aid on Black families and other people of color restricted form purchasing homes.

Canceling student debt as well as providing affordable housing, child care and paid family and medical leave all are staples of the agenda. A worker’s right to unionize and bargain for good pay, benefits and safe conditions is also a priority, along with taxing the wealth of billionaires and giant corporations.

Putting 16 million people immediately to work is another part of the progressives’ economic recovery plan. Jobs in infrastructure as well as modernizing and retrofitting homes are two areas of employment outlined in the proposal, along with fully staffing schools, hospitals and health departments. The plan also calls for restoring American forests and wetlands to create opportunities for family farmers and rural communities.

The progressives also want to prioritize investment in future resiliencies to financial, food and environmental crises. Their plan emphasizes cooperation and diplomacy in dealing with other nations and a focus on working-class communities.  

“The United States of America is the richest country in the history of the world,” the plan states. “We can get ourselves out of the messes we’re in. Imagine if the grocery store clerks, the farmworkers, the nurses, the teachers, the bus drivers and all of the working people in this country were in charge of it. Imagine how different things would be.”

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