Compromising on spending bills may cost Democrats the midterm elections, progressives fear

"Progressives are the ones who have fought like hell for Biden's full agenda, and their votes cannot be taken for granted," a progressive climate activist said.

Updated: November 1, 2021 - 10:59pm

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As the Build Back Better agenda has been significantly reduced in the $3.5 trillion spending bill that has shrunk to $1.75 trillion, progressives fear that their base will lack motivation for the 2022 midterm elections.

While climate change initiatives have remained in the bill, paid family leave and Medicare expansion have been cut out, to the dismay of progressives who voted for President Biden in the 2020 election, The Hill reported.

"It's promising to see a substantial investment in climate action, but it's appalling and frankly cruel that drug pricing, paid leave, Medicare expansion on dental and vision, are all cut from the framework, and Biden seems willing to leave a pathway to citizenship for millions up to an unelected parliamentarian," said Varshini Prakash, the executive director of the progressive climate group, Sunrise Movement.

"Progressives are the ones who have fought like hell for Biden's full agenda, and their votes cannot be taken for granted," she continued.

Despite the reductions in the bill, progressives are still supporting it out of fear that failing to do so would be politically detrimental to Democrats in the midterm elections since Republicans are just five House seats and one Senate seat away from regaining control of Congress.

The president of the progressive NextGen America, Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, said the reduced spending bill "represents a breach of democratic trust," and blamed a small group of moderate Democrats for forcing their party's majority to "renege on essential promises."

"Young Americans expected the leaders they elected to act and act quickly — on solving the climate crisis, reducing income inequality and building an economy that works for ordinary people," Tzintzun Ramirez said on Thursday in a statement.

"The Build Back Better Framework announced by the White House today doesn't go far enough to address the economic and climate crises facing our generation," she continued.

But Tzintzun Ramirez's group will support the bill, she said, urging Democrats to quickly pass it in addition to the $1 trillion infrastructure package, then "recommit themselves to fulfilling the promises that inspired millions of young people to join our democratic process in 2020."

Some progressives specifically blame moderate Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have strongly opposed certain aspects of the original $3.5 trillion spending bill, for preventing their agenda from passing, according to The Hill.

"The understandable frustration of progressives is that we are anchored down and weighed down by people like Manchin and Sinema," said Jonathan Tasini, a former national surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign and a progressive strategist. "We want to transform the country, but you can't do that in this corrupt system."

"There's still a fight going on here," he added. "We haven't taken control, and we have to admit it. We haven't transformed the Democratic Party, and we don't have the power to do it right now."

But Tasini said that if progressives sank the bill, it would be a "huge mistake," since Democrats should approve what they have before focusing on other issues like negotiating prescription drug prices through Medicare.

"You have to pass this and fight on," he continued. "It's about doing right for people. If you do good policy, the politics will follow."

Democratic strategist Joshua Karp argues elected officials are rewarded for promises kept.

"I do believe that the voters will show up at the ballot box in November of next year because we kept our promises," said Karp. "Most voters are not following the minutiae of the individual bills here in D.C. The fact that Democrats did not win every priority in this bill is not going to be relevant next year.

"What's going to be important is, did we deliver significant progress for American families? And in these bills is a whole lot of progress."