Pramila Jayapal Plans To Be Pelosi’s Successor

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(Washington Post)  The House’s passage of the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better legislation was another example of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legendary ability to keep her caucus united. What made this time different, however, was the emergence of a new force in the House — the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The CPC and its chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), forced conservatives in the House caucus to pass the expansive BBB, and got the Senate’s prima donna — Democrat Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) — to embrace a framework that gives it some hope of surviving in the Senate. In doing so, the CPC and Jayapal displayed a new coherence, strategic sophistication and collective discipline that bodes well for the future.

Progressives in the House and the Senate came out of the 2020 election with new confidence and new members. They had a clear agenda, largely defined by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). To their surprise, President Biden seemed open to much of that agenda.

From the start, the CPC, under Jayapal’s leadership, laid out its priorities and put forth bold plans to achieve them. As head of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders encapsulated these in a plan that would spend $6.5 trillion over 10 years. Progressives reluctantly acceded to Biden’s compromises which netted a $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan (BBB) and the president’s decision to negotiate with Republicans on a separate and diminished infrastructure bill.

Although the media and Republicans routinely tout “Democratic control” of Washington, a 50-50 Senate and a minimal margin in the House meant that any progress required virtually complete unity. Even with the Democratic caucus in both houses more unified than at any time in memory, the media pushed a narrative of “Democratic disarray” because a handful of conservative Democrats in the House and Senate threatened critical elements of the BBB.

Historically, in such face-offs, progressives have been at a disadvantage. In the past, the CPC has seldom acted collectively. Unlike the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, progressives want to get things done, not simply jam up the works, which makes them more willing to accept half of a loaf. That puts them at a disadvantage in negotiations.

But under Jayapal’s leadership, progressives put down an early marker once the president insisted on going forward separately with a bipartisan infrastructure bill. They demanded that the two bills pass together, vowing to oppose the bipartisan bill until there was agreement on both. A core group of progressives stood ready to vote en bloc to enforce that strategy. (Read More)

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