by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez saluted the Biden administration on Friday, saying the new president had exceeded progressives’ expectations in his first 100 days in the White House.
“The Biden administration and President Biden have definitely exceeded expectations that progressives had,” the New York congresswoman, a star on the left of the Democratic party, told a virtual town hall meeting. “I think a lot of us expected a much more conservative administration.”
In March, Joe Biden scored a major victory when his $1.9tn Covid stimulus and rescue package passed into law without a single Republican vote.
Progressives were disappointed, though, when a move to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour was dropped from the package after a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian.
Moderates in the upper chamber also opposed the move. The Senate is split 50-50 and controlled through the casting vote of the vice-president, Kamala Harris. Centrist Democrats such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are thus placed in powerful positions.
Ocasio-Cortez, an ally of progressive senators such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said that “the majority of the tension within the Democratic party lies in the Senate”.
Biden is looking to pass another large legislative package, the $2.25tn, infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan. Republicans remain ranged against him, opposing progressive priorities featured in the package.
Not all progressives are satisfied either. Ocasio-Cortez said: “I think the infrastructure bill is too small. I have real concerns that the actual dollars and cents, and programmatic allocations of the bill, don’t meet the ambition of that vision, of what’s being sold.” …
… But Ocasio-Cortez also said Biden – who was a senator for 36 years and vice-president for eight under Barack Obama – had been “very impressive” in his approach to negotiating with Congress, resulting in the passage of “progressive legislation”.
“It’s been good so far,” she said.