Rep. Ayanna Pressley is launching a new policy pledge for elected officials and candidates up and down the ballot in the hopes of highlighting support for progressive policies and channeling that popularity into momentum for the left’s agenda.
The Massachusetts Democratic congresswoman and “Squad” member told CNN her policy pledge will help embolden lawmakers as they see others signing on around them, underscoring for the public the breadth of support for progressive policies — such as canceling student loan debt and the Green New Deal.
“As the adage goes, it’s always impossible until it is done,” Pressley, who is in her second term in Congress, said in an interview with CNN. “It’s my hope that this pledge is going to create momentum. That it’s going to do that at every level.”
The Pressley Policy Pledge will begin as a questionnaire for current officeholders and candidates to establish whether they support certain legislation that Pressley has introduced, in addition to long sought progressive goals such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Pressley wants the pledge to serve as an organizing tool for those who sign on — make it, effectively, a stamp of approval for lawmakers at every level of government.
Even though Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, their majority is narrow in both the House and the Senate. Longtime progressive policy pushes — like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour — have been met with unified GOP resistance and, so far, been mostly sidelined by divisions in the Democratic ranks. The extent to which President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package will include clean, renewable energy investments in line with the Green New Deal’s framework remains to be seen. Bills passed out of the House that address police reform and seek to tighten restrictions on guns are currently sitting idle in the Senate.
As a member of “the Squad,” Pressley has had an increased profile in national politics for a House member who’s been in office for only a little over two years, though she made headlines before coming to Washington by defeating an incumbent lawmaker in the Democratic primary for her US House seat in 2018.
Pressley told CNN did not yet know if her “Squad” allies planned to sign the pledge, saying it was still “early in the launch.”
As of now, the five specific pieces of legislation candidates must sign onto support include student debt cancellation, a bold criminal legal reform resolution, legislation to end the pushout of girls of color in schools, investing in public transit and a federal jobs guarantee. Pressley has introduced or co-introduced each item during the current or last Congress, but splits in the Democratic conference have stalled their progress.
Pressley pointed to the progressive policies included in the American Rescue Plan as the latest example of progressives outperforming expectations. The package included $1,400 direct relief checks, extended unemployment benefits and a temporary expansion of the child tax credit — all pieces, she noted, that “we had been told were a nonstarter” early on the process.
As an increasing number of Democratic officials have adopted the language of the progressive movement — if not always its core policy agenda — Pressley believes the pledge will help secure public commitments from candidates and present clearer choices for voters.
“I think that voters deserve to know and want to know where their elected leaders and candidates stand on these policies, and this is an opportunity to really show just how broad and deep the support is for these transformative policies” Pressley said.
Ahead of the pledge’s rollout, Pressley was insistent that she did not want the initiative to be perceived as a wedge among Democrats, but rather a testament to the progressive movement’s advances — and an instrument for translating the work of activists into new electoral gains. Nor, Pressley said, was the pledge intended to be a “litmus test.” She said it would not be a condition “for whether or not I will legislate with, organize with, mobilize with or work with anyone.”
“The fact that these policies are now again a part of our regular discourse as lawmakers is a testament to the power of organizing,” Pressley said. “The most marginalized met the moment (in helping elect Democrats last year). And so now it’s incumbent upon us to advance these bold transformative policies that meet the moment.”