- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Rep. Rashida Tlaib said Tuesday that President Biden must revive his $1.75 trillion safety-net expansion legislation, providing a peek into the far-left’s focus eight months out from the midterm elections.

Delivering a response to the State of the Union on behalf of the Working Families Party, Ms. Tlaib also urged Mr. Biden to use his executive authority to cancel student debt, ban new fossil fuel drilling and regulate carbon emissions without approval from Congress.

“With the majority of the Build Back Better agenda stalled, Mr. President, our work is unfinished,” Ms. Tlaib said in an online stream. “We are ready to jumpstart our work again. We still have time to lower costs for working families and preserve a livable planet for our grandchildren, but we must act now.”

Ms. Tlaib is part of “The Squad” in the House, a group of minority lawmakers fighting to push the Democratic Party further to the left on policy.

Ms. Tlaib, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts established the group following the 2018 midterm election.

They said Democrats must embrace a bold vision, urging the party to pass a Green New Deal and Medicare for All, funded by more taxes on business and corporations.

Rep. Jamaal Brown of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri joined the group after their victories in the 2020 election, and liberal progressive activists are hoping to add to their numbers in the 2022 midterm elections.

Ms. Tlaib said Tuesday no one fought harder to help pass Mr. Biden’s social safety net program, known as the Build Back Better plan, than liberal progressives.

The package passed the House before getting bottled up in the Senate. 

Democrats planned to circumvent Senate GOP opposition by passing the bill through a budget mechanism called reconciliation, which would have allowed the proposal to pass with a simple majority. 

The strategy, though, flamed out after Mr. Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles S. Schumer of New York failed either to win over the Democratic holdouts - Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona - or to win any Republican support.

“Two forces stood in the way: a Republican Party that serves only the rich and the powerful, and just enough corporate backed Dem obstructionists to help them succeed,” Ms. Tlaib said.

Ms. Tlaib said Mr. Biden deserves credit for passing the coronavirus relief package, getting our relief checks, curbing home evictions, and sending resources to schools and to local state governments.

Moving forward, she said, Congress should push for universal health care, stand up to Big Pharma and insurance companies, and make sure that “abortion care” is a “fundamental right” that cannot get undone by a Supreme Court.

Ms. Tlaib called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to “at least” $15 with inflation adjustments, protect unions, and pass paid family and medical leave.

Ms. Tlaib’s decision to deliver a response to her own party’s president did not sit well with some of her fellow Democrats.

“It’s like keying your own car and slashing your own tires,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, co-chairman of House Problem Solvers Caucus, told Axios prior to her remarks.

It was a reminder of how the Squad’s far-left politics and fiery rhetoric has rubbed some centrist Democrats the wrong way. There are lingering concerns that their vision plays in the GOP’s hands and hurts the party’s ability to win over middle-of-the-road voters in competitive swing states and congressional districts.

On Tuesday, Ms. Tlaib directed her stiffest criticism at Republicans, saying the GOP is “trying to destroy our working-class families and they are willing to tear down democracy to do it.”

“The midterm elections are coming up fast and this year we can elect the working families majority we all need,” Ms. Tlaib said. “We know what happens when the Republicans take power: they protect the rich and target the rest of us.”

“They attack and undermine voting rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, immigrants, people of color and our LGBTQ community and they block progress on climate change,” she said. “So if you voted or knocked on doors or donated in 2020 to defeat [former President Donald] Trump, I implore you to pay attention because this year is just as important and we need everybody to help.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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