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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema speaks during an event

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) speaks during an event in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 2021. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Wealthy Progressives Back Primaries Against Dems Tanking Party Agenda

"Their outright sabotage of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda, likely done on behalf of their donors," say the Patriotic Millionaires, "left us with no choice."

Jake Johnson

A group of wealthy progressives announced Thursday that it will support primary challenges against Rep. Henry Cuellar, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and other right-wing Democrats who have actively obstructed President Joe Biden's legislative agenda and, in the process, potentially boosted the GOP's chances of retaking Congress.

"These radical moderates have done more damage to President Biden’s agenda than Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz combined," Erica Payne, president of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement announcing the organization's endorsements for the looming 2022 midterms—and its plans to back campaigns to unseat right-wing Democrats in this year's elections and beyond.

"We must stop contributing to and endorsing candidates who are actively sabotaging the president's agenda."

"Their outright sabotage of President Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda, likely done on behalf of their donors, left us with no choice—it's time to draw a line in the sand," Payne continued. "It's time for the American people to expect better from Democrats, and for the party to hold its elected officials to a higher standard."

Founded in 2010 in opposition to then-President Barack Obama's extension of Bush-era tax cuts for the rich, the Patriotic Millionaires had never waded into the realm of congressional primaries before Thursday, when it officially endorsed Cuellar's progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros as well as Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), who is taking on Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) in Georgia's newly drawn 7th Congressional District.

But the group doesn't intend on stopping there, pointing to a list of 15 congressional Democrats it characterizes as "The Problem(s)." In a press release, the Patriotic Millionaires said they plan to follow the endorsements of Cisneros and McBath with "further challenges to some of the Democrats who have spent the last year sabotaging the Biden agenda at every turn."

The group told CNBC that its members will be providing financial support to the Democratic primary challengers it endorses.

The Patriotic Millionaires' list of Democratic obstructionists includes prominent figures such as Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who for months have stood in the way of the Build Back Better package and defended the archaic legislative filibuster, which Republicans have wielded repeatedly to block voting rights legislation.

Sinema and Manchin are both up for reelection in 2024.

Also featured on the organization's list are Democratic Reps. Richard Neal (Mass.), Jared Golden (Maine), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), and Ed Case (Hawaii).

"Our country is becoming unstable, largely due to rapidly growing inequality," Morris Pearl, the chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement Thursday. "A small number of radical so-called moderates have stood in the way of even the most commonsense reforms because they are too beholden to a few shortsighted ultra-wealthy people. They have decided to have people who work for a living fall further and further behind to preserve the wealth of millionaires and billionaires."

In addition to backing candidates challenging right-wing Democrats, the Patriotic Millionaires endorsed seven Democratic incumbents, including Reps. Katie Porter (Calif.), Andy Kim (N.J.), and Deborah Ross (N.C.).

"It's time for Democratic donors to stand up for working people," said Pearl. "We must stop contributing to and endorsing candidates who are actively sabotaging the president's agenda."

"If Democrats want to convince voters to support them, they need to show voters that being a Democrat means something," he added. "The people we are endorsing are the tireless champions of working people that the party needs more of. It’s time to focus our support and resources behind candidates like them, rather than ones that will actively undermine their colleagues and the country."

Shortly before the Patriotic Millionaires unveiled their endorsements, another progressive organization—Progressive Democrats of America (PDA)—announced its official support for the reelection campaigns of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and several others who represent the flipside of "The Problem(s)."

"Nothing is more essential for our movement than returning all of these progressive champions to Congress with resounding victories—just as nothing would please our opponents more than their defeat," said Alan Minsky, PDA's executive director. "They will pour money into any campaign challenging AOC, or Rashida Tlaib, or Jamaal Bowman, et al., but we can defeat them with an avalanche of small donations."

"Over the next several days, we will announce endorsements for additional incumbents," Minsky continued. "Many excellent progressives will be added to this already-impressive list, a clear sign that progressive power and influence is growing in Congress and across the country."

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