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Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) participates in a news conference in the Capitol on June 16, 2021. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

Progressives Hand Biden List of 55 Executive Actions Because 'Working People Can't Wait'

"Taken together, these actions will have an immediate and meaningful impact on people's lives," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Jake Johnson

With the pivotal midterm elections looming, the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Thursday unveiled a slate of more than 50 executive actions it is urging President Joe Biden to pursue as much of his domestic policy agenda remains stalled in Congress—thanks in large part to right-wing members of his own party.

"Working people can't wait for relief from rising costs—and that Democrats must use all the tools available to provide it, quickly."

The CPC's new list of executive order recommendations is broad in scope, aiming to address a variety of pressing issues including sky-high drug prices, the worsening climate emergency, the coronavirus pandemic, mounting student loan debt, and a rigged tax system—priorities that Biden vowed to tackle on the campaign trail in 2020.

While Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the CPC chair, has said she would prefer ambitious legislation such as the Build Back Better package to more limited executive orders, that bill is dead in the Senate due to opposition from Republicans and corporate-backed Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), leaving the president with few other options to advance his popular agenda.

Failure to act boldly, Jayapal and other progressives have warned, could spell disaster for Democrats in the fast-approaching midterms.

"Congress continues to push for a robust reconciliation package that can pass both chambers, and the Progressive Caucus remains fully committed to delivering as much of the president's agenda as we can through legislation," Jayapal said in a statement Thursday. "But we know working people can't wait for relief from rising costs—and that Democrats must use all the tools available to provide it, quickly."

Included among the 98-member CPC's list of 55 proposed executive orders are steps Biden can take unilaterally to:

  • Protect seniors' ability to manage their own care in traditional Medicare by quickly transitioning away from the ACO REACH pilot program;
  • Dramatically lower costs of essential drugs like insulin, naloxone, hepatitis C drugs, HIV/AIDS drugs, Xtandi, EpiPens, and inhalers;
  • Expand public manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutic production;
  • Put money back in the pockets of millions of Americans who are stuck in the student debt trap... by using existing administrative authority under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to cancel federal student loan debt;
  • Give millions of workers more take-home pay by strengthening outdated overtime protections;
  • Stop the expansion of private prisons to detain immigrants;
  • Declare a National Climate Emergency and invoke authorities under the Defense Production Act and Trade Expansion Act, mobilizing domestic industry to manufacture affordable renewable energy technologies with good-paying union jobs;
  • Declare a ban on new fossil fuel leases on federal lands and waters and in environmental justice communities;
  • Raise billions by closing the carried interest loophole that lets Wall Street executives managing other peoples' money disguise part of their salary as investment returns to cut their taxes; and
  • Reverse Trump administration regulations that further expanded the offshore tax loopholes created by the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

"Taken together," Jayapal said Thursday, "these actions will have an immediate and meaningful impact on people's lives: lowering costs and raising wages for working people to provide urgently needed economic relief, advancing racial and gender equity by investing in communities that have historically been neglected, and delivering on our promises."

"President Biden can and must use the full authority of his office to deliver change wherever possible, as soon as possible."

"We look forward to working with the Biden administration to realize these ambitious, but highly achievable, goals," she added.

Despite grassroots pressure that has continued to grow since he took office last January, Biden has thus far rebuffed calls to broadly cancel student loan debt despite evidence that failure to do so could harm Democrats' chances in the midterms, particularly by suppressing turnout among young voters.

A recent survey found that one in five Democratic voters overall "won't support Biden in 2024 without action on student loans."

In a statement endorsing the CPC's recommendations, Lauren Maunus of the youth-led Sunrise Movement said that "young people mobilized and risked their lives through a pandemic to deliver Biden the presidency on his promises to stop the climate crisis, cancel student loan debt, and ensure real change for our communities."

"But two years into his term, and two years further into the climate crisis, we have yet to see the type of bold action we were promised," Maunus continued. "As we face a historic crossroad in the fight to protect democracy and defeat white supremacy, it’s beyond time for Biden to use the full powers of the presidency to deliver for the people who elected him and address the interlocking crises of our times."

"If he doesn't," Maunus added, "Biden risks not only alienating his own base, but failing to stop the worst of the climate crisis while he had the chance."

Mary Small, national advocacy director of the progressive advocacy group Indivisible, similarly argued that the power to advance key Democratic priorities "is in President Biden's hands."

"Even as we continue to push for Congress to end its political theater and finally deliver on his legislative agenda, our network is calling for simultaneous and complementary executive action," said Small. "We've already been engaged in pushing for the administration to provide relief for those with student loan debt and to address the climate crisis. We echo the Congressional Progressive Caucus' call: President Biden can and must use the full authority of his office to deliver change wherever possible, as soon as possible."

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