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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with delivery workers

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joins delivery workers to celebrate the passage of legislation by the New York City Council guaranteeing them basic labor rights such as wages, tips, and rest areas on January 23, 2022 in Times Square, New York City. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

'When You Don't Change People's Lives, People Get Upset,' Says AOC

To reverse slump in Democratic approval ratings, the congresswoman said Biden should start by cancelling student loan debt.

Julia Conley

"When you don't change people's lives, people get upset."

That's how New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez succinctly explained the reason behind President Joe Biden's plummeting approval rating, which fell to 41% this week, as she countered claims Wednesday night that progressives have harmed the president's ability to maintain voters' confidence.

While some political commentators have blamed the Democratic Party's progressive wing for the president's dimming polls numbers and the prospect of losing control of Congress in the midterms, Ocasio-Cortez argued the failures belong to corporate Democrats who have consistently obstructed the party's bold agenda and made Biden's promises to voters impossible to fulfill.

"The moderate end of the party has received everything that they have wanted from President Biden, including President Biden as the nominee himself," Ocasio-Cortez said, referring to the hard-fought 2020 Democratic primary in which numerous moderate candidates rallied around Biden instead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).  "They got their president, they got their agenda, they got their sequence, they got their infrastructure plan with no [Build Back Better Act]."

The congresswoman added that she has yet to hear an "intellectually rigorous argument" regarding progressives causing Biden's approval rating to plummet, noting that far from sabotaging his agenda, members of Congress who campaigned for Sanders in 2020 have supported the president "oftentimes more than the moderate wing of the party has."

Progressives including Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee chairman, and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have worked to negotiate the package and educate the public about what it contains while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has demanded far-reaching climate provisions, paid leave, and an extension of the Child Tax Credit be removed from the bill—ultimately announcing in December that he would not support what was left of the proposal.

Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have also stood in the way of reforming the legislative filibuster, stopping voting rights legislation from being passed.

Even with the right-wing senators' obstruction, Ocasio-Cortez argued, Biden could shore up his poll numbers by delivering on his campaign promise to address the student loan debt crisis—something his administration has stalled on for months.

"We can improve people's lives," she said. "We can forgive student loan debt and we can improve his poll numbers while we're at it."

Under immense pressure from progressives, Biden extended until May the student loan debt payment moratorium which had been scheduled to expire at the end of January.

A poll taken last year by Data for Progress showed that 54% of voters support Biden canceling $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower, while an analysis released last month by the Roosevelt Institute showed debt cancellation would add more than  $173 billion to the nation's gross domestic product this year alone.

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