Reported by PHIL SHIVER | March 29, 2022
Progressive firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged this week that Democrats are heading straight toward a bloodbath in the midterm elections unless something changes — and quickly. But the solution she offered to solve the party’s political problems is a puzzling, if not unsurprising, one. Essentially, the lawmaker urged her Democratic colleagues in Washington — including President Joe Biden — to dig their heels in on radically left-wing governance.
“We need to acknowledge that this isn’t just about [the] middle of the road, an increasingly narrow band of independent voters. This is really about the collapse of support among young people, among the Democratic base, who are feeling that they worked overtime to get this president elected and aren’t necessarily being seen,” Ocasio-Cortez said of Biden and the Democratic Party’s cratering poll numbers in a recent interview with New York Magazine.
Recent surveys have shown what some are calling a “5-alarm fire for the Democratic Party” ahead of the midterms as Biden’s favorability rating has sunk to 40% and battleground voters increasingly see the president and his party as “out of touch,” “condescending,” and not up to the task of leading the country.
But for Ocasio-Cortez, the issue is not the party’s fierce commitment to a radical liberal agenda; rather, it’s the party’s alleged failure to push that agenda onto the American people. She does mean push, too. The lawmaker implicitly suggested that Congress is unable to legislate the types of policies the progressive base desires, and so Biden will need to use his executive authority to ram those policies through.
“If the president does pursue and start to govern decisively using executive action and other tools at his disposal, I think we’re in the game,” she told the magazine. “But if we decide to just kind of sit back for the rest of the year and not change people’s lives — yeah, I do think we’re in trouble.”
What are the policies that Ocasio-Cortez is advocating for? According to the Washington Post, they include enacting environmental protections, lowering health care costs, overhauling police departments, canceling federal student loan debts, and expanding protections for illegal immigrants.
The Post reported earlier this month Ocasio-Cortez and her 97 Democratic colleagues in the Congressional Progressive Caucus have decided to demand executive action from Biden on a range of issues in hopes that the actions will save the party from an embarrassing political defeat in November. The full list of the caucus’s executive action “recommendations” can be seen here (also see below).
If not for the damage it would do to the nation, Republicans would likely welcome such an approach from Biden. All indicators suggest it would only give the Republican base more to rally around come election time.
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Recommendations for Executive Action
Lower Health Care Costs
Ensure Access to Health Care for Families
● Make health care more affordable by changing the current determination of
eligibility for a family’s ACA premium subsidies, which is based on whether the
available employer-sponsored insurance is affordable for the employee, rather
than for the whole family. Fixing this “family glitch” in the Affordable Care Act
would provide relief to 5.1 million people.
● Protect seniors’ ability to manage their own care in traditional Medicare by
quickly transitioning away from the ACO REACH pilot program, which allows
third-party middlemen to manage care without seniors’ full understanding or
prior consent, and often through for-profit businesses with incentives to restrict
Lower Drug Prices for Millions of Americans and Protect Taxpayer Investments in
Research and Development
● Use existing legal authorities to dramatically lower costs of essential drugs like
insulin, naloxone, hepatitis C drugs, HIV/AIDS drugs, Xtandi, EpiPens, and
● Build public manufacturing capacity to ensure availability of critical medicines
such as insulin at lower cost.
● Guarantee lower drug prices and protect taxpayer investments in research and
development by requiring all government funding contracts to include a
reasonable-pricing clause using a standard such as the median price in other
OECD countries, as well as licensing conditions to ensure affordable global
● Make medications cheaper by allowing the personal importation of drugs.
Decisively End the Global Pandemic
● Negotiate licensing agreements that require manufacturers to share production
methods and invoke legal authorities to ensure broad technology transfer so that
new manufacturing plants can be built around the world.
● Expand public manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic
production, and future public use for critical drugs by building governmentowned, contractor-operated facilities. Publicly release all Operation Warp Speed
contracts with manufacturers in an unredacted form to provide greater
transparency into pricing, intellectual property, delivery and distribution, and
donation terms of agreement.
● Redouble multilateral efforts to secure a global emergency waiver for monopoly
rights on COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
● Put government-owned intellectual property related to the Walter Reed pancoronavirus vaccine candidate in the public domain, and actively share
technology with the World Health Organization’s technology access pool and
manufacturers throughout the world to ensure that if the vaccine candidate is
proven safe and effective, there will be fair pricing and adequate supply and
● Support a new issuance of International Monetary Fund global emergency
reserves at no cost to U.S. taxpayers so that developing countries can purchase
vaccines, treatments, protect public health budgets, and spur global demand for
Cancel Federal Student Loan Debt
● Put money back in the pockets of millions of Americans who are stuck in the
student debt trap — preventing them from buying homes, starting families, and
investing in their communities — by using existing administrative authority
under section 432(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to cancel federal
student loan debt.
Expand Worker Power and Raise Wages
● Give millions of workers more take-home pay by strengthening outdated
overtime protections. Provide at least one-and-a-half times the regular pay for
any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek to millions more workers
by quickly initiating the rulemaking process to update the salary threshold for
w0rkers eligible for overtime, in line with the historical high point of the 55th
percentile of earnings of full-timed salaried workers nationwide, amounting to at
least $82,732 by 2026. Implement automatic updates to prevent the erosion of
the salary threshold over time.
● Provide generous sick leave, overtime, vacation, and other benefits by
strengthening Service Contract Act regulations and guidance, addressing
misclassification of low-wage workers and use existing authority to ensure that
bidders prioritize retention and quality staffing.
● Require that federal contractors remain neutral in union organizing campaigns;
narrow the gap between CEO and worker pay; have no violations of labor union
rights; divulge company and individual contributions to candidates, parties or
third-party political groups in the past two years; and have not paid a penalty or
settled a claim in connection with the violation of an EPA regulation in the
preceding five years.
● Protect high-risk workers including farm workers, construction workers, and
warehouse workers from dangerous heat and wind conditions caused by climate
change by developing workplace heat and wind standards.
● Ensure high wages from federal projects by modernizing regulations related to
the Davis Bacon Act, which establishes a prevailing wage for construction
workers on federally funded projects. Reverse Reagan-era rules that undermined
the ability of the Department of Labor to accurately collect wage data.
● Ensure that all grants for infrastructure projects, to the extent allowed by law,
require the use of a trained, certified workforce and apply labor standards—
particularly on projects aimed at deployment of electric-vehicle charging stations.
● Build on existing memoranda of understanding between the Department of
Labor Wage and Hour Division and the National Labor Relations Board that
coordinate efforts to enforce labor and wage standards by creating new MOUs
between other executive branch organizations like the Department of Defense.
● Promote the protection and robust enforcement of labor, employment and civil
rights by ensuring that all workers, regardless of immigration status, can exercise
their rights, by providing immigration protections and access to work
authorizations to safeguard against retaliation.
Advance Immigrants’ Rights
● Provide immediate and urgently needed relief for those coming from countries in
crisis by designating or re-designating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for
people already present in the United States. Protect current TPS recipients, and
newly designate or redesignate countries eligible for TPS or DED, such as
Cameroon, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hong
Kong, Lebanon, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Somalia,
South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen.
● Ensure fairness in the immigration court system by removing nonpriority cases
from the 1.6 million case backlog, expanding government-funded legal counsel
for adults and children, and ending the use of expedited proceedings that
compromise due process such as immigration adjudication centers that operate
● Stop the expansion of private prisons to detain immigrants; terminate or decline
renewal of all current private prison contracts; and support community-based
alternatives to detention, including community-based case management.
Specifically, transition ICE’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP)
to alternatives to detention that are operated outside of ICE by non-profit
community-based organizations with expertise serving immigrant communities.
● Provide access to a fair asylum process by ending the use of Remain in Mexico
(MPP) and Title 42 expulsions and border closure, and working to re-open closed
ports of entry to people seeking protection in coordination with local non-profit
groups and shelters.
● Combat racial profiling while fostering greater public safety and community trust
by ending all 287(g) agreements, which deputize state and local law enforcement
officers to perform certain functions of federal immigration agents. Prohibit the
Department of Homeland Security from entering into new such agreements,
including both Warrant Service Officer and Jail Enforcement Model agreements.
● Redress the harms of Trump’s Muslim Ban and additional, related presidential
proclamations, so that those unfairly burdened or rejected under Muslim Ban are
able to secure status, obtain lost green cards, and secure other basic services
without additional burdens.
● Raise wages and improve labor safeguards and protections so that employers can
no longer use the H-2B visa program to underpay and exploit migrant workers
and U.S. workers.
● Increase wage requirements in the H-1B visa program so they reflect true market
rates and allocate H-1B visas by prioritizing employers seeking highly skilled
workers and paying fair wages.
Deliver on the Promise of Equal Justice Under The Law
Judicial System Reform
● Fight cost increases for working families and protect workers by developing an
inter-agency task force to investigate, prosecute, and deter white-collar crime,
including anti-competitive and price-gouging business behaviors as well as firms’
exploitation of heightened inflation to pad profits; tax fraud and evasion by
corporations and wealthy individuals; and employers’ workplace safety
violations, wage theft, anti-union retaliation, and other violations of labor law.
● Fulfill the President’s promise of assembling a taskforce on prosecutorial
discretion to collect and implement best practices and innovations at the state
and local levels to reduce over-criminalization, such as ending cash bail and
declining to prosecute smaller crimes to advance racial and economic justice.
● Build on the success of alleviating prison overcrowding and mass incarceration
made by the pandemic home confinement program, by ensuring that the Bureau
of Prisons effectively implements the Attorney General’s strong Office of Legal
Counsel memo, including by granting clemency to those who have complied with
the terms of home confinement regardless of the length of their sentences. The
administration should also create an independent, permanent clemency board to
review more than 18,000 pending clemency petitions.
● Make police departments more transparent and accountable to the public by
collecting and publishing data on the use of force in police departments across
● Help reduce the use of deadly force by police officers by establishing strict
national standards governing the use of force and require immediate application
of these standards to all federal law enforcement agencies and condition federal
grants on their adoption at the state and local level.
● Build on President Obama’s executive action to demilitarize law enforcement by
directing the Department of Defense to revise its 1033 program and prevent the
transfer of certain excess military-grade weaponry to federal, tribal, state, and
local police, including grenade launchers, weaponized drones, long-range
acoustic devices, armored military vehicles, grenades, and other explosives.
• Issue an executive order to establish a new Division of Community Safety within
the Department of Health and Human Services to advance non-carceral
responses to safety, including overseeing research, providing technical assistance
for jurisdictions, funding grant programs on initiatives like violence interruption,
mentorship, assistance for survivors and vulnerable youth; and coordinating
among other federal agencies around non-carceral community safety approaches.
• Build on the President’s comprehensive strategy to combat gun violence by
establishing an Office of Gun Violence Prevention to streamline, coordinate, and
implement relevant executive orders across federal agencies.
Combat the Climate Crisis and Reduce Fossil Fuel
Invest in Clean, Affordable, Homegrown Energy to Support Energy Independence
• Ensure the federal government leverages its vast purchasing power to accelerate
homegrown clean energy technologies that cut costs for American families by
developing strong rules for implementing the Executive Order on Catalyzing
Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability. Regulations
should include equity, labor, and environmental standards.
• 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 for domestic use and international export; reinstate the crude oil export ban;
and build reliable, distributed renewable energy systems in frontline
communities most affected by the dirty and unjust energy complex.
● Declare a ban on new fossil fuel leases on federal lands and waters and in
environmental justice communities.
● Save taxpayers billions of dollars by ending both domestic and international
federal fossil fuel subsidies.
● Direct the State Department, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Export-Import Bank, the U.S.
Development Finance Corporation, and USAID to phase out all U.S. government
financing for fossil fuel projects and related infrastructure overseas and finance
only clean energy infrastructure and climate mitigation and adaptation measures.
Use the U.S.’ voice and vote at IMF, World Bank and IDB to advance the same
Ensure Clean Air and Water to Save Lives
● Protect Americans’ health and save tens of thousands of lives annually by
updating and strengthening outdated standards limiting particulate matter,
ozone, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury, coal ash, and tailpipe emissions,
as well as lead and copper rules preventing contamination of drinking water.
● Finalize new methane standards for new and existing oil and gas operations.
Make these standards strong enough to cut methane pollution at least 65 percent
below 2012 levels by 2025.
● Direct the EPA to designate greenhouse pollutants as criteria air pollutants and
set a science-based national pollution cap under the Clean Air Act.
Advance Environmental Justice
● Ensure at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from federal investments in
climate and clean energy go to disadvantaged communities by establishing
Justice 40 implementation guidelines for all agencies, including definitions and
metrics; mandatory data collection, mapping, and monitoring of distribution of
funds to disadvantaged communities; and oversight of the social, economic, and
environmental impacts of funds. Ensure that environmental justice communities
receive the technical support needed to secure access to federal funds.
● Issue a strengthened and more robust executive order on addressing
environmental justice that will hold agencies accountable for reducing
disproportionate environmental impacts on frontline communities.
Invest in Care Economy Jobs & Standards
● Ensure veterans’ access to home care, including by allowing veterans to use
consumer-directed models to access crucial in-home care while providing directcare workers serving veterans with supports and pay to guarantee recruitment
and retention of an adequate workforce.
● Grow strong child care unions by encouraging widespread adoption of strong
labor standards and bedrock funding, creating opportunities for worker
engagement and voice, and using rulemaking to stabilize the workforce and
create a path to unionization for child care workers.
● As outlined by President Biden in his State of the Union proposals, protect
nursing home residents and improve quality of care by establishing minimum
staffing standards for skilled nursing facilities, with an ongoing role for labor
management processes on staffing and care issues. Address workforce shortages
by expanding training opportunities and tying Medicaid payments to adequate
wages. Require greater transparency about ownership and financing of homes in
order to ensure that public funds are used to provide care, rather than pad the
profits of corporate owners.
● Robust implementation of the Medicaid Equal Access Rule to reflect the
important role of the workforce in ensuring access to health services, including
establishing a public process to ensure that payment levels for home care
providers are adequate, and that rate increases are passed on to workers in the
form of higher wages.
Regulate for Economic and Tax Fairness
● Curb abuse of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s Opportunity Zone program in which
wealthy investors shield capital gains from taxes by promulgating new
regulations that the Treasury Department annually certify Opportunity Zone
funds fulfill all the program’s requirements, including 90 percent of an
investment being made in an Opportunity Zone itself and robust reporting
● 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; currently, investment income of wealthy
money managers is taxed at the capital gains rate of 20 percent, whereas their
wage income is taxed at 37 percent.
● Fight unfair tax evasion by the wealthy through IRS authority to require
reporting by financial institutions on large deposits related to business
transactions without encroaching on the financial privacy for average account
● Reverse Trump administration regulations that further expanded the offshore tax
loopholes created by the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Promulgate new
regulations to close transfer pricing loopholes, prevent earnings stripping, reform
the abuse of foreign tax credits, and protect and expand the U.S. source taxation
● Advance corporate transparency through a Securities and Exchange Commission
rule requiring public companies to disclose information about their exposure to
climate-related risks, including: the company’s direct and indirect greenhouse
gas emissions; the total amount of fossil fuel-related assets the company owns or
manages; the company’s expected valuation if climate change continues at its
current pace or greenhouse gas emissions are restricted to meet the 1.5 degrees
Celsius goal; and the company’s risk management strategies related to the
physical risks and transition risks posed by the climate crisis.