Progressives give Biden list of executive order demands including combating climate 'crisis,' racial justice

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Frustrated that the Build Back Better agenda failed to pass Congress, the House Progressive Caucus has shifted gears by calling on President Biden to enact a series of their priorities on his own by executive order.

The House Progressive Caucus Thursday released their 2022 Executive Action Agenda that outlines eight policies that Democrats in Congress haven’t been able to pass themselves, so they want Biden to enact them unilaterally through executive orders. 

“This is Democrats’ moment to deliver on the agenda that more than 81 million people voted for,” the agenda states. “Let’s be guided by racial, gender and economic justice — not corporations’ bottom lines.”

Holding up a copy of the U.S. Constitution, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., votes to approve the second article of impeachment as the House Judiciary Committee holds a public hearing to vote on the two articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill Dec. 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C.
(Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

The eight policy areas are: lowering health care costs, canceling federal student loan debt, expanding worker power and raising wages, advancing immigrants’ rights, delivering on the promise of equal justice under law, combating the climate crisis and reducing fossil fuel dependence, investing in care economy jobs and standards and regulating for economic and tax fairness. 

Progressives say they haven’t given up on priorities from Build Back Better, which died in the 50-50 split Senate when moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he couldn’t justify spending roughly $2 trillion more on social spending programs. But without permanent legislative fixes around the corner, executive action is the best and quickest option to deliver Americans relief, they say.

By the stroke of pen, Biden could lower prescription drug costs for 38 million people, relieve the burden of student debt for more than 43 million borrowers and give millions of workers a raise by increasing the overtime eligibility threshold to $83,000, according to the Progressive Caucus, which includes members of the Squad.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about assistance the U.S. government is providing to Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the neighboring country, in the Eisenhower Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 16, 2022.
(REUTERS/Tom Brenner)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the leader of the 98-member caucus said they’ve had conversations with White House staff over many months on developing the list and hope to have a formal conversation with Biden soon. 

She stressed this list is “focused” and does not include “every fabulous idea” from the progressive movement. Rather it’s a detailed roadmap of things Biden could do immediately, she said. 

“This isn’t a messaging exercise,” Jayapal told reporters Thursday. “These are steps that we believe the President has the authority and the ability to take now and should do so.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a press conference about student debt outside the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 4, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

Executive actions include declaring a National Climate Emergency and invoking the Defense Production Act to increase the production of renewable energy, ending domestic and international federal fossil fuel subsidies and reinstating the crude oil export ban, ending Remain in Mexico (MPP) and Title 42 expulsions for migrants at the border and granting clemency to federal prisoners complying with the pandemic home confinement program regardless of the length of their sentences.

Canceling student debt through executive action has been a popular push by a range of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who co-authored a resolution last year calling on Biden to take executive action to cancel up to $50,000 in debt for federal student loan borrowers. 

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