The Congressional Progressive Caucus Is Starting to Show Some Teeth

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The Congressional Progressive Caucus is as large and as strong as it’s ever been. And it appears that the group is ready to start throwing its weight around on a key issue: the federal budget.

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Politico reports that the CPC is angling for a major increase in domestic spending, including in education, healthcare, and housing, much to the chagrin of senior Democratic lawmakers who seemingly want to cede ground to Senate Republicans right off the bat.

Currently, the federal budget bill caps Pentagon spending at $664 billion in 2020 and $680 billion in 2021, while capping domestic spending at $631 billion in 2020 and $646 billion in 2021. But CPC chairs Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan have put forward an amendment to the bill that would bring domestic spending in line with defense spending. Another amendment, authored by former CPC chair Rep. Barbara Lee, would free up $22 billion for domestic spending over the next two years “by addressing a budget gap for a Veterans Affairs program,” according to Politico.

Lee’s amendment is reportedly expected to make it into the final bill. “It never even would have come up as an amendment had we not done what we were doing,” Pocan told Politico. “In my world, I consider that a big victory already, that we’ve got something moving forward.”

But, perhaps as a sign of either strength or frustration, some members of the caucus are still threatening to vote against the final bill if the amendment equalizing the caps doesn’t pass. “I think it’s a tough vote right now,” Rep. Ro Khanna, a prominent anti-interventionist in Congress, told Politico. “Without Jayapal’s amendment, I don’t see it going through.”

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Appropriations committee chairwoman Nita Lowey, meanwhile, told Politico that she “expects we’ll have that support.” This is her reasoning for not supporting the Jayapal/Pocan amendment:

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) has dismissed the progressives’ plan to dole out more cash to domestic programs than defense, in part, because she fears it could spoil the start of negotiations with the Senate.

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I know it’s been a while since House Democrats have had any sort of power whatsoever over the budget, but Jesus Christ. Senate Republicans will call the House Democrats godless communists if they propose raising domestic spending by $50. Why negotiate downward with yourself before crossing that bridge?

If anything, this is yet another reminder of why it’s important to have a strong, cohesive left opposition in Congress. Without it, most congressional Democrats would be perfectly content with pissing away any chance to express a vision for what a better safety net looks like in America.

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Update, 4:00 p.m. ET: It appears tomorrow’s budget vote has been canceled, according to the Washington Post.

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