Originally Published in CBS News
By Megan Cerullo

The idea of hiking taxes on the richest Americans is having its moment. Leading Democrats in Congress, including some expected to run for president in 2020, are floating proposals. Respected experts on inequality are preaching the gospel of redistributing wealth. Even the country's most prominent banker, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, endorses the concept. 

And the public? They're game, too -- and by a wide margin. The issue is rekindling an old debate between advocates for a progressive wealth tax who say it would raise federal revenue while shrinking the gap between rich and poor, and detractors who argue it would demoralize "job creators" and discourage investment. 

The question now: Will the debate over raising taxes on the rich crystallize into a serious policy push or crash on the shoals of partisanship in Washington?

Bipartisan public support

Seventy-six percent of registered voters agree that the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released this week. A recent Fox News survey found that 70 percent of respondents -- including 54 percent of Republicans -- expressed support for raising taxes on those who earn more than $10 million a year.

Potential presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren is among the high-profile Democrats who have drawn support for their proposals to increase taxes on the rich. Her "Ultra-Millionaire Tax," aimed at the richest 0.1 percent of Americans, would impose a 2 percent wealth tax on individuals with average gross annual income of $7.3 million and net worth more than $50 million; people worth $1 billion and up would see a wealth tax of 3 percent.

"For decades, a small group of families has raked in a massive amount of the wealth American workers have produced, while America's middle class has been hollowed out. The result is an extreme concentration of wealth no seen in any other leading economy," the Massachusetts Democrat said in introducing the bill.

President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, on Thursday articulated the perspective found among many conservatives.

"The top quarter of income earners pays 87 percent -- please don't tell me they don't pay their fair share," he told reporters outside the White House. "The top 1 percent pays more than the bottom 90 percent. Pardon me for this editorial. But I do not want to see prosperity killing job killing incentive killing  policies."

A salve for inequality, backers say

Backers of Warren's proposal say it would help curb inequality, which has been on the rise in the U.S. since the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan began hacking tax rates.

"The result has been a boom in top incomes of the richest Americans," Eileen Applebaum, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research, a liberal-leaning think tank, said Wednesday at a panel in Washington hosted by the Congressional Progressive Caucus to discuss tax policy. 

University of California Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two of the leading scholars on inequality, estimate that Warren's wealth tax would affect an estimated 75,000 American households and would raise around $2.7 trillion over 10 years.

"The point of high top marginal income tax rates is to constrain the immoderate, and especially unmerited, accumulation of riches," they wrote last month in a New York Times op-ed.

Other plans take aim at the richest Americans' income, rather than their wealth (which factors in all of a person's assets and debt). Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, in January said the government should tax incomes exceeding $10 million at a rate of 70 percent, a policy she said would help fund a "Green New Deal" in the fight against climate change. 

The current top tax rate in the U.S. peaks at 37 percent on earnings above $510,300 for individuals and $612,350 for couples, according to the Tax Foundation.

A Hill-HarrisX survey shows that 59 percent of Americans support Ocasio-Cortez's proposal. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is another progressive voice calling for increasing federal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. Sanders, who many expect to run for president in 2020, favors a top tax rate of 77 percent on estates worth more than $1 billion; that would affect the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans.

"We are not taking care of ourselves... and we are falling farther and farther behind what normal countries all over the place are achieving," Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs said at the Congressional Progressive Caucus event, pointing to Canada and to Scandanavian countries, where the top marginal tax rates exceed 45 percent.

Uber-rich for a tax hike

Some wealthy Americans are weighing in, too -- in favor of higher taxes. JPMorgan Chase's Dimon, who is reportedly a billionaire, said people in his income bracket can and should pay more, as long as the revenue is used effectively.

"Individuals earning the most can afford to pay more, and I have no problem paying higher taxes to address some of the fundamental challenges and inequities in our society," Dimon recently told Bloomberg.

Investor Warren Buffett has also long called for a tax hike on the wealthy. In a 2011 op-ed for The New York Times, he wrote that most of his mega-rich friends "wouldn't mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering."

He also dismissed detractors' notion that higher tax rates discourage investment. "People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off," he said.

A road to nowhere?

Despite the recent hubbub over proposals to jack up tax rates on the rich, they're probably not going anywhere, according to economist Martin Sullivan.

"It's highly unlikely that there is any chance of enactment," he said. "The only scenario in which it could be enacted is if in 2020 the Democrats took control of both houses and the White House. And even if that did occur, it would still be highly unlikely because of better alternatives and because of the inability to administer such a tax as a wealth tax," he said.

He outlined some of the challenges associated with enforcing a wealth tax, including closing loopholes and accurately assessing how much individuals are worth.

"It's politically useful for Democrats to talk about taxing the rich more, and this is a dramatic way of drawing attention to that," Sullivan said. "However, as a practical matter I wouldn't waste much time on it."

Originally Published in Politico
By Zack Colman and Anthony Adragna

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) released a blueprint for a Green New Deal on Thursday, urging a "10-year national mobilization" for a speedy shift away from fossil fuels and calling for national health care coverage and job guarantees in a sweeping bid to remake the U.S. economy.

The burgeoning left-wing faction within the Democratic Party quickly persuaded several 2020 White House contenders to sign onto the Green New Deal’s tenets in a bid to push climate change and the broad economic platform up the ladder of party priorities.

Declared candidates Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are all co-sponsoring the resolution, as are likely contenders Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), according to their offices. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is also on board, saying in a tweet that she is "proud to join" the "fight for our planet and our kids’ futures."

The 14-page, non-binding resolution from Ocasio-Cortez and Markey is an attempt to add substance to the proposals that have fired up a wave of new activists who are planning to barnstorm lawmakers' offices in the Capitol in the coming days — and to set an agenda for the Democrats in the 2020 election.

“[A] new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era is a historic opportunity ... to create millions of good, high-wage jobs in the United States; to provide unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States; and to counteract systemic injustices," the resolution states.

However, the resolution is not likely to go before the House for a vote, according to a Democratic aide, although parts of the plan could ultimately be turned into legislation to address climate change.

Ocasio-Cortez presented the resolution, which was introduced with 60 co-sponsors in the House, as a "first step" to put climate change at the top of Democrats' agenda. "Incremental" legislation would not be enough to address the problem, she said.

“We can save ourselves and we can save the rest of the world with us," she said at a press conference outside the Capitol.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the resolution's introduction Thursday, a day after she told POLITICO it would be one of multiple ideas Democrats consider.

“It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said in the interview. “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Peter DeFazio, who lead the Natural Resources and Transportation committees, are backing the resolution and plan to raise its issues in legislation that moves through their panels.

But Rep. Frank Pallone, who heads the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, was noncommittal. “There’s a lot of good ideas and we’ll have to take a look at it. We’ll consider it.” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), chair of the newly established House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, also did not give the Green New Deal her explicit endorsement, though she would consider it as she develops "a detailed policy framework."

As POLITICO previously reported, the plan seeks to transition the U.S. to a 100 percent clean energy system without specifically calling for an end to fossil fuels, stating that it aims for "net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers." It also calls for creating "millions of good, high-wage jobs" and pledges "to promote justice and equity" across all communities within 10 years.

Those targets reflect the message from the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report last fall that warned governments must cut global greenhouse gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 to achieve "net-zero" emissions by mid-century to avoid 1.5-degree Celsius global temperature rise.

Republicans were quick to denounce the resolution.

"It’s a socialist manifesto that lays out a laundry list of government giveaways, including guaranteed food, housing, college, and economic security even for those who refuse to work," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement. "As Democrats take a hard left turn, this radical proposal would take our growing economy off the cliff and our nation into bankruptcy. It’s the first step down a dark path to socialism."

The Sunrise Movement, the youth-led climate group at the heart of the Green New Deal push, is planning hundreds of Senate and House office visits Feb. 11 and 12 to prod lawmakers into signing onto the resolution by Feb. 26.

Ocasio-Cortez's office said in a press release that the freshman lawmaker would soon begin to "fully flesh out the projects involved in the Green New Deal" and work with colleagues to identify legislation that could fit into a "comprehensive plan."

The resolution advocates for eliminating fossil fuels pollution and greenhouse gas emissions "as much as technologically feasible" in agriculture and transportation, two of the major sources of climate change gases.

Under the plan, the electricity system would run entirely on "clean, renewable, and zero-emission sources," the resolution states. It envisions newinvestments in public transportation, improving building energy efficiency, clean manufacturing and green infrastructure. Investments would prioritize communities that "may otherwise struggle with the transition away from greenhouse gas intensive industries" while also ensuring room for "high-paying union jobs" that include prevailing wages and protect collective bargaining rights. It also pushes to "stop the transfer of jobs and pollution overseas."

Achieving many of the goals would depend on a "massive investment program" from the federal government, according to Ocasio-Cortez's office, though it did not call for a carbon tax. Several environmental groups as well as center-right organizations and economists have advocated for such a tax, and Ocasio-Cortez's office said the "door is not closed for market-based incentives."

"We will finance the investments for the Green New Deal the same way we paid for the original New Deal, World War II, the bank bailouts, tax cuts for the rich, and decades of war — with public money appropriated by Congress," the release said. "Further, government can take an equity stake in Green New Deal projects so the public gets a return on its investment."

Critics have hammered the massive spending called for by the plan in recent weeks. Potential presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has backed the idea of a Green New Deal, said recently that some of the plan's promises are "pie in the sky," while Republicans have slammed the concept as unworkable.

At a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) criticized what he saw as the youthful folly of new members proposing unrealistic plans in the new Congress with the support of more senior lawmakers.

"I guess I can understand if someone who has not a lot of life experience and they’re proposing something that’s extremely unrealistic — well, impossible. Impossible. But what I don’t understand is adults, grown-ups who are older and more mature are also advocating something that is impossible, and I see that in some of the presidential contenders,” he said.

But some of those Democratic contenders cheered as the resolution neared its release.

"Excited that @SenMarkey, my former colleague, & @AOC are starting a conversation in Congress on #GreenNewDeal and thrilled this movement (and groups like @sunrisemvmt) has forced climate action onto the agenda," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who has pledged to make climate change central to his White House bid, tweeted Wednesday.

A staffer for Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who is expected to join the race and has advocated for action on climate change, said he is reviewing the resolution in detail.

The resolution includes key changes from the first proposal that Ocasio-Cortez presented in November when she and dozens of activists stormed Pelosi’s Capitol Hill office. Those changes appear designed to make the Green New Deal more palatable to moderates and labor unions that are key Democratic backers.

Chiefly, the resolution calls for relying on “clean, renewable, zero-emission sources" — language that allows possible room for nuclear power and is a departure from Ocasio-Cortez’s initial call for 100 percent renewable sources such as wind and solar. The change reflects concerns from labor groups, including those that have members who work in the nuclear energy industry. Ocasio-Cortez's office also didn't rule out carbon capture and storage technology as a means of enabling the continued use of fossil fuels, though they would prefer steps like reforestation and said that carbon capture technology "to date has not proven effective."

The wording reflects that many communities revolve around fossil fuel economies and will need more time to adjust to a transition, a concern that Democratic lawmakers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus had previously raised. Provisions in the resolution such as the need to obtain consent from indigenous peoples on all decisions that affect their land — similar to First Nations in Canada — are also designed to be bulwarks against extraction.

Those assurances, however, are unlikely to please everyone.

“Our climate crisis requires that we stand up to the fossil fuel industry and ramp down our fossil fuel production, not allow it to continue its planned expansion,” David Turnbull, a spokesperson with Oil Change International, said in a statement.

Originally Published in Common Dreams

By Benjamin Day and Mark Dudzic


As the 2019 legislative session in Congress kicks off, the Democratic majority in the House will, in very short order, have to address a national surge of support for Medicare for All (otherwise known as single-payer healthcare). At the close of the last Congress, almost two-thirds of Democratic Representatives had signed onto HR 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act. They will be joined by the long list of freshman Democrats who ran and won on this issue.

Leading the charge in the House will be Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who is assuming lead sponsorship of the Medicare for All bill after Keith Ellison stepped down to run for Attorney General of Minnesota. Jayapal got her start in the immigrant rights and civil rights movements, and has extensive ties to the social justice and labor movements in Washington State.

Her willingness to take the lead on the Medicare for All Act will come as no surprise: last year she helped to launch the first Medicare for All Caucus in the history of Congress, and, as Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is helping to prioritize the CPC's work on single-payer healthcare. She brings an organizing approach and a deep understanding of the power that political momentum brings. She has won commitments from committee chairs to hold actual hearings on the bill and convinced speaker Pelosi to waive the "PayGo" rules as the bill is being marked up.

Rep. Jayapal's office is also in the midst of significantly rewriting the legislation, a move that has become necessary as the social movement for Medicare for All has grown, and the details of how it can be accomplished come under growing scrutiny. Bernie Sanders learned this the hard way when, during the 2016 Presidential primaries, he floated the outline of a plan for single-payer healthcare that received intense criticism from his opponents – most of it dishonest and misleading, but made easier by the lack of some details in the original proposal. The new bill not only will be much more detailed, it will also add additional benefits and correct some major shortcomings in both HR 676 and the Senate Bill (S 1804).

Jayapal’s organizing approach impelled her to engage in extensive deliberations with single-payer advocates and to bring to the table voices that are often marginalized in the healthcare policy world, including advocates from the racial justice and disability rights communities. All of this takes time and the process has also been delayed by the government shutdown, leadership transition and the ongoing disruptions of an out of control Trump Administration. This means that the opportunity has passed to submit the new bill under the old HR 676 number beloved by single-payer diehards. The new bill will have a higher number. But it will be a serious piece of legislation ready to undergo the scrutiny of congressional committees and the Congressional Budget Office. More importantly, we believe the new bill will reflect the values of the healthcare justice movement.

Understandably, the transition to a new lead sponsor and an extensive rewrite process has created some nervousness and confusion in sections of the single-payer advocacy community. This has allowed a range of rumors and misrepresentations to run rampant among activist groups, including some rumors that have started spilling into published articles.

The two of us lead Healthcare-NOW and the Labor Campaign for Single Payer Healthcare, the national organizations representing community members and organized workers fighting to win healthcare as a right. Neither one of us has seen the final bill nor are we authorized to speak on behalf of Congresswoman Jayapal. However, we have been involved in extensive briefings and consultations with Jayapal’s staff and we want to explain what is happening with the bill, and express our confidence that it is shaping up to be a much stronger and more detailed piece of single-payer healthcare legislation than the bills submitted in the last Congress.

Messaging vs. Comprehensive Legislation

HR 676, the Medicare for All bill filed in the House of Representatives for the past fifteen years, was a "messaging" bill. It was intended to outline the key features of what a Medicare for All system would look like and to serve as a rallying point for the growing single payer movement. Many of its laudable features were little more than bullet points describing the essential components of such a system.

The new bill—which will be filed as the Medicare for All Act of 2019—is more than 120 pages long (HR 676, by contrast, ran 30 pages from start to finish) and tries to flesh out the elements of a Medicare for All system in a comprehensive fashion. This is in expectation that the bill will receive serious consideration and review by the appropriate Congressional committees. It incorporates many new provisions and elaborates on the bullet points in HR 676.

Below are what we believe to be the essential features of a real Medicare for All program, and how we understand the new bill will address them:

Everybody In. Nobody Out.

The new Medicare for All Act will contain the same inclusive language as both HR 676 and Senator Sanders's Medicare for All bill: every resident of the United States would be eligible for coverage under the new health plan. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would define, through regulations, who exactly qualifies as a resident. Because they are younger and healthier than the general population, immigrants have low healthcare costs and pay far more into the system than they use, making full inclusion both the morally and economically right thing to do. The lack of a "citizenship" test is intentional and important, but both of our organizations (Healthcare-NOW and the Labor Campaign) would like to see more explicit language that doesn't provide wiggle-room to the Secretary of HHS.

Full and Comprehensive Medical Coverage

We expect that the final bill will include the full range of health services covered by the previous House bill (HR 676), as well as additional services that reflect new advances in medical treatment and the needs of the disability community and other vulnerable care recipients. Services covered include primary care, emergency care, mental health coverage, addiction treatment services, prescription drug coverage, medical devices, dental, and vision among others. Freedom to choose providers will be protected.

Long-Term Care

Long-term care (LTC) describes the range of services and supports that help people carry out tasks of everyday living (such as bathing, dressing, eating, taking medications, etc.) for those who need them. HR 676 committed to covering those services but it devoted only one sentence to how this large and life-saving sector would be funded and what benefits would be covered.

The Senate Medicare for All bill as it was written last session would not expand LTC coverage, and preserves the current system whereby people have to make themselves poor (if they are not poor already) to qualify for LTC under Medicaid. Medicaid LTC coverage varies tremendously from state-to-state, and institutional care (such as at nursing homes) is easier to qualify for than home-based care, even though it is more expensive and typically less beneficial for the recipient.

The new House bill's LTC plan is being written after extensive consultation with disability advocacy and senior citizen communities, and incorporates their insights in developing comprehensive coverage that fosters independence and community-based care.

Reproductive Healthcare

One major shortcoming of the previous House bill was that it remained silent on access to reproductive healthcare and abortion services. This meant that the move to a national healthcare plan coupled with the Hyde Amendment—which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion and related services—would have denied all women access to insurance coverage for abortion services, even if they currently receive such coverage through their private insurance. We are assured that the new bill will follow Senator Sanders' Medicare for All Act and shelter the new national health plan from the Hyde Amendment, ensuring women's access to the full range of reproductive health services.

No Financial Barriers to Care

Like HR 676, there will be no co-payments, deductibles or other charges at the point of service for any category of care. And it will not include the Senate Bill's imposition of small drug co-payments to encourage the use of generic pharmaceuticals.

A Single Standard of Care for All

The bill embraces the principle of a single standard of care for all Americans. It will not allow participating institutions and providers to offer private care for covered services to the rich. Allowing the wealthy to "buy out" of the system has led to the erosion of care for everyone else in countries, such as Australia, who have experimented with it. The new House bill will also include substantial new language to begin to remedy healthcare disparities and expand service to underserved communities.

National and Regional Budgeting

Like the previous House bill's authors, Rep. Jayapal supports global budgeting for hospitals and other institutions, and fee-for-service for physicians. Furthermore we expect the bill will prohibit the use of funds for incentives that discourage utilization, increase profits or net revenues for providers, or rely on so-called "value-based payment" models. These are the best policies for minimizing administrative costs and avoiding payment methods that give providers an incentive to undertreat their patients or avoid the sick in favor of the healthy.

Protect Workers and Healthcare Professionals

We expect the bill to include robust "just transition" benefits for any healthcare and insurance industry workers displaced by the transition to Medicare for All, as well as prohibitions on using any funds intended for medical care towards union busting. There is also a commitment to ensure safe staffing levels, and to allow healthcare professionals to use their judgment to protect the best interests of their patients.

Transition Period

HR 676 had a transition period of between 1 and 2 years (if the bill was passed on January 2, it wouldn't be implemented for 2 full years), with no benefits until full implementation at the end of that period. The new House bill being drafted by Jayapal will likely have a transition period of two years, with significant benefits kicking in at the end of year one to improve Medicare and to extend a single-payer plan to about half the population. This is shorter than the four-year transition plan built into the Senate Medicare for All bill last session. Both the Sanders and the Jayapal bills are also using their transition periods to try to catch people who may lose their insurance if private insurance plans go under or refuse to write coverage after passage of the single-payer bill, which is likely.

What About Investor-Owned Facilities?

The new bill will likely not include one provision previously featured in HR 676 that banned investor-owned providers from participating in the new national health plan (this includes hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis clinics, dental and eye-care providers, etc). This provision would have required tax-payers to reimburse the shareholders of these providers for their lost stock value, and to ostensibly convert the facilities to nonprofit status. Instead, the new bill will seek to minimize profit taking through a series of budgetary and regulatory provisions.

Supporters of the "buy out" model maintain that it will cost $150 billion or so (approx. 5% of the entire federal budget) to reimburse the entire industry, and remind us that studies consistently show that for-profit providers produce abysmal outcomes. But there is considerable disagreement in our movement about whether buying out the for-profits is the best way to deal with the distortions of profit taking. Given the federal courts' propensity to privilege private property over public goods, it is all but certain that this buyout provision would spark a protracted legal battle. It is also difficult to guarantee under this provision that new non-profit providers would be created to replace every single for-profit company that closes its doors, since there is no way to compel a new non-profit to form. And the nonprofit section of the industry itself has gone through extensive consolidation and often embraces a business model that is virtually indistinguishable from that of investor-owned facilities. While we can honestly disagree about the best ways to begin to squeeze profit taking out of our bloated healthcare industry, we believe it is disingenuous for any sincere advocate of Medicare for All to maintain that any bill that fails to require the buyout of investor-owned facilities is fatally flawed and not worthy of support.

Negotiating Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Moreover, Jayapal intends to rein in the 500-pound gorilla in the profiteer room: Big Pharma. While HR 676 empowered the new national health plan to negotiate with drug manufacturers, it contained no backup plan if Pharma refuses to negotiate and holds the country hostage. Rep. Jayapal, taking a page from a bill introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) last year, is in favor of putting real teeth behind that negotiating authority by empowering the federal government to strip drug makers of their patent rights—making them compete with generic producers—if they fail to negotiate reasonable prices in good faith.

Maintaining Our Commitment to Native American and Veterans' Healthcare

Another provision of the previous House bill has been cause for concern: HR 676 was written to phase out the Indian Health Services (IHS) after five years, and to begin a discussion of phasing out the Veterans Administration (VA) after ten years. The thinking was that these populations would be fully covered under the new national health plan, and would have their choice of providers – whether at IHS facilities, VA hospitals, or elsewhere. The language was not written in consultation with the potentially impacted communities, though, and these two healthcare systems are vital for fulfilling our country's historic debt to these two communities. Converting IHS and VA facilities into general providers for anyone in the population could significantly diminish their ability to offer targeted, effective service for Native Americans and veterans. The new Medicare for All Act will keep the IHS and VA systems fully funded and intact, even while their target populations will gain access to broader range of providers and services.

Collaborative Drafting Process

In part because of rumors circulating about the bill and the extended drafting period, there has also been a call for Rep. Jayapal to immediately release the full text of the bill draft to advocates, and to conduct an open revision process. We are not aware of any major piece of legislation—including previous iterations of the bill—that has been drafted in public. There are obvious reasons not to do so: the bill has to undergo legal review before committing to any provisions; you may want to give potential cosponsors the chance to weigh in before they read about it in the press; and you may not want to give your opponents and industry lobbyists the chance to dig in before the full bill is even released.

In truth, Rep. Jayapal has included a number of major single-payer advocacy organizations in the redrafting process and, after reaching a rough draft phase, brought in an even larger range of national grassroots organizations and trade unions. While it is certainly frustrating that it has taken longer than expected to prepare the final draft of a bill that we are all eagerly awaiting, we have to say that Jayapal's office has been extraordinarily open to sharing their views and taking advice from the healthcare justice community.

We are entering into the fight of our lives. Support for Medicare for All has never been stronger and Congress, for the first time in modern history, has been compelled to hold hearings on what an effective Medicare for All bill should look like. As our momentum grows, we will be facing the concentrated power of the Medical Industrial Complex whose tentacles reach into almost one fifth of the U.S. economy. In addition, we will be confronted with a Democratic establishment intent on diluting and undermining our vision in ways that will be very confusing to the American people and will peel off substantial institutional support from labor and other social movement organizations. We will need all hands on deck to fight this two-front war.

As we move from an aspirational phase into dealing with the nuts and bolts of implementing a concrete piece of legislation, the greater the potential will be for tensions within our movement to grow and to be used strategically against us. We are looking forward to the next phase of scaling up our organizing, as well as paying particular attention to building unity within the movement as we do so.

Onwards to Medicare for All!

Originally Published in Inequality.org

By Sam Pizzigati


Jan Schakowsky doesn’t need to apologize for anything. This veteran member of Congress from Illinois has a record second to none on issues that matter to working people. Over the course of her 20 years on Capitol Hill, Schakowsky has introduced much more than her share of innovative legislation, bills like her Patriot Corporations of America Act, a measure designed to give companies that pay their top execs only modestly more than their workers a better shot at winning government contracts.

But today, in a special Congressional Progressive Caucus Capitol Hill briefing on taxes, Schakowsky did some apologizing of sorts. Her previous attempts at making the U.S. tax code more progressive, she acknowledged, had called for a tax rate on America’s highest income bracket at no more than 49 percent.

Schakowsky called that 49 percent — a figure close to the top rate during most of the Reagan years and a dozen points over the current top rate — the highest rate she “had the guts” to propose. But then, she added, along came Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her call last month for a 70 percent top rate “for the richest among us.”

“And lo and behold,” smiled Schakowsky, referencing the favorable polling on that 70 percent proposal, “the American people think that’s a good idea.”

Schakowsky went on to pledge that she’ll be working with Ocasio-Cortez, her Congressional Progressive Caucus co-host for today’s tax briefing, to draft legislation that enshrines a new, considerably higher top rate in America’s tax code.

In a sense, the bold Ocasio-Cortez move to propose a 70 percent top rate — a rate totally unimaginable in polite political circles just weeks ago — has liberated Schakowsky to go as bold on taxing the rich as she has always wanted to go, and that couldn’t be better news. Today, at a time of intense income and wealth concentration, we need to be bold — on multiple tax fronts.

We need, as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has proposed, to restore the top marginal tax rates that did so much in the middle of the 20th century to check grand fortune. But we can’t be content to just recreate that mid-century progressive tax structure. We need to do what egalitarians back then could not do. We need to make steep top rates politically sustainable over the long haul.

And how might we do that? At today’s Congressional Progressive Caucus briefing, Economic Policy Institute president Thea Lee highlighted one promising approach: We could start linking income tax rates for America’s richest to the minimum wage for America’s poorest.

If the tax code set the threshold for a new, much higher top tax rate as a multiple of the minimum wage, Lee explained, those at our economic summit would be more personally “invested in raising the minimum wage.” The higher the minimum wage, the less of their income subject to the top marginal tax rate. People at our economic bottom, for their part, would have a direct personal stake in keeping that linkage — and steeply progressive tax rates — in place.

Lee also noted another linkage proposal that analysts at the Institute for Policy Studies have been advocating: tying the U.S. corporate tax rate to the ratio between CEO and worker pay.

If the tax code fixed a higher corporate tax rate on companies with wide gaps between executive and worker compensation, the Economic Policy Institute’s Lee pointed out, corporate enterprises would have a powerful “incentive to raise their worker pay”and, in the process, help reduce our income gap before taxes.

Our tax rates, Ocasio-Cortez observed in her remarks at today’s Congressional Progressive Caucus briefing, can be a mighty tool to help us “mitigate inequality.” Yes, tax rates can certainly play that essential role — but only, her briefing strongly suggested, if we stay bold.

Originally Published in The New York Times

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg


WASHINGTON — Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the liberal Democratic upstart from New York, is bringing a sexual assault survivor who cornered a Republican senator in an elevator, demanding to know if he was going to vote to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and a chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is bringing a climate change scientist. Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and a Somali refugee, is bringing a Liberian refugee who is threatened with deportation. And all will be wearing white.

When President Trump delivers his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to Congress — his first under divided government — the left wing of the ascendant House Democrats will have a rare opportunity to confront him. In 2016, Republicans headed for the exits before President Barack Obama had even finished his final address, and one famously shouted, “You lie!” in 2009 when Mr. Obama addressed Congress on health care.

The new Democrats — many of them women, and many of them people of color — are planning to send their own pointed messages to the president with their choices of guests and attire. Many women will wear white — the color of the women’s suffrage movement — to spotlight issues like reproductive rights and equal pay. Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic leader, will be handing out white lapel ribbons to the men.

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told reporters on Monday that Mr. Trump intends to make some gestures of peace: “He’s calling for cooperation, and he’s calling for comity — c-o-m-i-t-y — and also compromise.”

But he may find an inhospitable audience.

“I think the goal here is to really show the tremendous step backwards that our country has taken under this president,” Ms. Jayapal told reporters on a conference call on Monday, “and to call out the very specific ways in which he has pushed policies to undermine our climate, undermine immigrants, undermine worker protections and undermine, of course, women’s reproductive rights.”

[Some of the Trumps’ guests are the human faces of narratives that the president has been crafting and wishes to advance.]

State of the Union addresses are almost always remembered as much for their theatrics as for their policy announcements. Mr. Trump’s, delayed one week by the partial government shutdown, is coming at a particularly tense moment — less than two weeks before the deadline for House and Senate negotiators to come up with a plan for border security that will avert another shutdown.

It will also be the first Trump State of the Union address with Representative Nancy Pelosi presiding as speaker. Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, an institutionalist and a stickler for decorum, is unlikely to look kindly on any outbursts from her members. She will introduce him as the president of the United States, released by custom from having to utter his name.

Congress-watchers are already wondering what the dynamic will be like between her and Mr. Trump — and what messages her body language and expressions will convey — when she stands behind him, captured on television cameras, during the speech.

“That photograph is worth the price of admission,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, Democrat of Virginia, who is bringing Amer Al-Mudallal, an Iraq-born chemist who was furloughed from the Environmental Protection Agency during the record-breaking shutdown, along with his wife.

“This is a president — I can’t even say he struggles with empathy; he lacks any signs of an empathic capacity to understand the suffering or plight of other people,” Mr. Connolly said, adding, “I want my guest to give witness, by virtue of being here, to the president that real human beings were negatively affected by your shutdown.”

Members of Congress each get one ticket to bring a guest to the State of the Union address; sometimes they invite family members, but more often they use their tickets to make a point. Addressing gun violence is high on the agendas of several Democrats.

Representative Lucy McBath, Democrat of Georgia, whose son Jordan Davis, 17, was shot to death in 2012 by a man upset that he was playing loud music, is bringing Jeff Binkley, the father of Maura Binkley, 21, who was killed last year in a shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Fla.

Representative Ted Deutch, Democrat of Florida, is bringing Manny Oliver, whose son Joaquin Oliver was killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., during the massacre there last year.

“I hope the president will take note of how the American people voted to send a gun safety majority to Congress,” Mr. Deutch said in a statement, “and live up to his previous promises to stand up to the N.R.A. and support meaningful policies to make our communities safer.”

Mr. Trump’s immigration policy is also top of mind for Democrats this year.

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat of New Jersey, is bringing Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant who spoke out about her work at Mr. Trump’s golf resort in Bedminster, N.J. Representative Adriano Espaillat, Democrat of New York, has invited Yeni González, a mother who was separated from her three children at the border, while Representative Veronica Escobar, a freshman Democrat from Texas, is bringing an immigrants’ rights advocate whose father has been deported to Mexico.

Ms. Omar’s guest, Linda Clark, fled civil war in Liberia in 2000 and has lived in the United States for the past 18 years, but may be forced to leave because of Mr. Trump’s decision to end special protections for thousands of Liberian immigrants.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s guest, Ana Maria Archila, is a resident of Queens who helps direct the Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive advocacy group. She confronted Jeff Flake, then a Republican senator from Arizona, in an elevator during the Kavanaugh hearings. The encounter prompted Mr. Flake to call for an F.B.I. investigation into accusations that then-Judge Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted a women when they were in high school.

In an interview, Ms. Archila said she senses a new energy this year around the State of the Union address.

“Unlike last year, when Trump had the presidency and the Republicans were firmly in charge of both houses of Congress and essentially enabling his agenda to be forced on the country, this time around, the energy is with the people who protested,” she said. She added that “the wave of women” just elected “speak with so much moral clarity in the face of someone who is so willing to lie and bend the truth and fan the flames of hate and fear.”

Originally Published in Rolling Stone

By Andy Kroll


WASHINGTON — Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), the new leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, often get asked the same question: “Are you going to be the Tea Party of the left?”

No, they say during a recent interview with Rolling Stone, and here’s why: the Tea Partiers and the far-right Freedom Caucus, which peaked in popularity near the end of the Obama administration, mostly succeeded at killing legislation, forcing moderate Republicans into early retirement and derailing the work of Congress. The Progressive Caucus, on the other hand, has a different mission: Make sure the newly empowered Democrats, from Nancy Pelosi to the lowest-ranking freshmen, act on the promises and ambitious policies that got them elected. “Our job is to convince [members] why these aspirational ideas are really what people want and why people voted for us on November 6th,” Pocan tells Rolling Stone.

Beginning January 3rd, the Progressive Caucus, which represents the left-most flank in the House of Representatives, will have between 90 and 95 members — the most ever. That’s about 40 percent of all House Democrats. Thirteen committee chairs and roughly 30 subcommittee chairs will likely be filled by Progressive Caucus members. The caucus should have more influence in the 116th Congress than at any other point in its 27-year history.

And never has the Progressive Caucus been as diverse as it is now. Two years ago, Jayapal becamethe first Indian-American woman elected to Congress, and 2018 saw the election of the first Muslim-American women, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, not to mention dozens of new young men and women of color. At a recent caucus meeting, Jayapal recalls, one of the few straight white male members told the room, “I’m just so honored to be here representing the minority.”

“This is the most progressive caucus we’ve ever had, and you see it reflected in all these different ways,” Jayapal says. “We need to make sure we’re delivering on that. Otherwise, we will have a lot of people step back again from the Democratic Party.”

The CPC, as it’s known, began more as a social club for lefty members of Congress. When Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) became co-chair in 2011, the caucus began to take on a more active role in progressive politics writ large, Pocan says, connecting different grassroots groups directly to members of Congress. But it wasn’t until recently that the Progressive Caucus — not typically seen as a source of real political muscle within the Democratic Party — started to look more like a political operation to be reckoned with.

Last month, Jayapal withheld her support for Pelosi’s bid for House speaker until she and Pocan had extracted concessions that would give Progressive Caucus members seats on the so-called “A committees”: Appropriations, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services and Intelligence. For the 2018 midterms, Pocan and Jayapal raised a record $1.8 million for the caucus’ political action committee — a sixfold increase from 2016. That money went toward polling on issues like Medicare-for-all, recruiting progressive candidates and winning elections. (Pocan is hoping to surpass $2 million in 2020.) And under Jayapal and Pocan’s watch, progressive Democrats this fall launched a new affiliated outside group, the CPC Center, which will build on the CPC’s work and hire up to 15 full-time staff and fellows to serve as a hub for strategy, organizing, research and messaging for House progressives. “Otherwise, everyone is just going to the K Street lobbyists, because they’re ubiquitous and they’re right outside the door waiting to give you that information,” Jayapal says.

Jayapal, who spent nearly two decades as an immigration-rights organizer before winning her seat in 2016, says she came to Washington looking for ways to organize within the government. Borrowing from one of the popular new rallying cries on the left, Jayapal calls the revamped Progressive Caucus the intersection between the Indivisibles, MoveOns and other activist groups on the ground, the liberal think tanks doing the research and legislators on the inside. “As we try to move Medicare-for-all, foreign policy and other critical priorities, we will have this real body of research that’s already been done,” she says, “but also the power of the progressive movement across the country that helped win us these victories.”

Jayapal and Pocan rattled off a slew of policy goals for the upcoming Congress. Many of those will be found in the People’s Budget, an annual blueprint of sorts for the priorities of the Progressive Caucus. Last year’s People’s Budget called for $2 trillion in new infrastructure investments, a $100 billion investment in increasing access to high-speed Internet in underserved areas, $1 trillion for early-childhood learning and childcare programs and heavy investments in clean energy, all to be funded by ending corporate tax loopholes and rewriting the tax code to have “fair tax rates for all Americans.”

Jayapal and Pocan tell Rolling Stone that this year’s People’s Budget will be no less ambitious. They zero in on Medicare-for-all and are pushing their fellow Democrats to embrace the policy given the wide support it enjoys, with polls conducted by Reuters and the Kaiser Family Foundation showing support in the 60- to 70-percent range. They plug the so-called Green New Deal, which would put people to work in the places where they live building the clean-energy economy needed to transition off fossil fuels and fight climate change.

Other issues they raise include support for medical marijuana and opening up the banking industry for the burgeoning cannabis industry; antitrust and regulating the big tech companies; and figuring out what a progressive foreign policy looks like. “Let’s talk about the military budget, the Pentagon, fraud, accountability,” she says, “all of those things that have been swept under the rug, even by Democrats in the past.”

Many of these policies — Medicare-for-all, for instance — stand little chance of passage in a Senate run by Republicans and their corporate-bought overlord, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. But Jayapal and Pocan believe there could be bipartisan cooperation between the House and Senate on liberal priorities such as finally passing the DREAM Act and criminal justice reform. And the Progressive Caucus, its two co-chairs insist, is ready to work with Republicans when the opportunity presents itself. Jayapal name-checks Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), dubbed the “Trumpiest congressman in Trump’s Washington,” as a potential collaborator. “For everything I disagree with him on,” she says, “Matt Gaetz on medical marijuana is fantastic.”

The real targets of the Progressive Caucus, Jayapal and Pocan contend, are the moderate and pro-corporate Democrats who may resist policies like cutting the bloated Defense Department budget or giving workers more rights in the form of collective bargaining. Pocan remembers a meeting with the moderate New Democrats and the centrist Blue Dogs about the top issues Democrats should run on in 2018.

“We all agreed, and then one of the other people — I won’t say who it was — said, ‘Well, let’s take it to the more vulnerable members and see what they think,'” he says. “Let’s face it: there are members who are very risk-adverse or very willing not to do something even though we know that their constituents support it,” Pocan says. “Our challenge is to convince members that their constituents actually support all of these ideas.”

That also means bucking the party leadership if necessary. Pocan says senior Democrats resisted an idea that came out of the Progressive Caucus to hold town halls in Republican-held districts where the incumbent hadn’t held a town hall in months, sometimes years. Adopt-a-District was a hit, and the leadership quickly got on board, he says.

And if Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are trying to push through a deal that isn’t sufficiently progressive, Jayapal and Pocan say they will leverage their numbers — Jayapal envisions a solid bloc of 40 to 45 members — to kill the deal. “Whatever the issue is, our members will be helping to make those arguments at the table where those decisions are being made,” Jayapal says. “If politics is the art of the possible, then it’s our job to push the limits of what is seen as possible.”


Originally Published in The Nation

By Joan Walsh


Pramila Jayapal was speed-walking through the Longworth House office building early on January 3, aiming to visit as many of the Democratic women newly elected to the House of Representatives as possible before the end of the day. It wasn’t going to be easy, since there were 35 of them—and even more progressive activists lining the hallways hoping for a chance to talk with her.

“I love your new bill!” one young man called out to Jayapal, referring to the Medicare for All legislation she’s still drafting. Five minutes later, two California Indivisible activists flagged her down, promising to keep their new representatives on board the Medicare for All train. Jayapal, the representative for the Seventh District in Washington State and the new co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), stopped for a quick huddle with them and shared a secret: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was supporting holding hearings on the bill, which was first proposed by former Michigan congressman John Conyers back in 2003.

In the offices of New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland, one of two Native American women elected to the House in November, Jayapal was whisked past the well-wishers to hug the new congresswoman, whom she had endorsed early in the campaign. Haaland’s family members, dressed in Pueblo of Laguna traditional clothing, posed for pictures with Jayapal, an Indian-American activist and organizer who was elected to Congress just two years earlier. It was only the first of the many times that I found myself (unprofessionally) teary-eyed at the history being made around me that day.

It was a glorious morning, but there was already trouble in paradise: Two members of Jayapal’s caucus—Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected insurgent representing parts of Queens and the Bronx, and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Ro Khanna, had come out against a new House rules package because it included a provision known as “pay-go,” which requires the House to cut spending or hike taxes to “pay” for any new programs. Pay-go has become a powerful symbol of the hold that austerity politics has on both parties, though it ultimately has no force; the House can waive the provision at any time, and has in the past. Jayapal and her CPC co-chair, Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan, had decided to support the rules package after getting major concessions from the Democratic House leadership, including hearings on Medicare for All and a promise to waive pay-go when considering that and other progressive priorities. But that wasn’t enough for Ocasio-Cortez and Khanna, who, along with Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, voted against the package. In Jayapal’s office, her staff assistant, besieged by people angry at the Seattle progressive’s compromise, politely kept telling callers, “Please stop yelling at me!”

The normally upbeat Jayapal was a little peeved: “Strategically, it is not the fight we should have picked—well, it’s not the fight we did pick, actually!” What should have been a banner day for House progressives—as of press time, the CPC reports that it has at least 90 members, and Jayapal and Pocan had negotiated new power for the group—was overshadowed by headlines trumpeting progressive infighting. But not for long: The next day, Jayapal introduced legislation to repeal the pay-go provision. After some scuffling behind the scenes, the pay-go dissenters co-sponsored Jayapal’s bill and seemingly put the trouble behind them.

The skirmish was a window into Jayapal’s new opportunities and headaches, leading a caucus that makes up approximately 40 percent of House Democrats and includes a remarkable number of popular, high-profile, left-leaning female first-termers—not just Ocasio-Cortez, but Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, Massachusetts’s Ayanna Pressley, California’s Katie Porter, and others. Jayapal herself has a long history of protest, at times against her own party—while campaigning for her state senate seat, she joined a hunger strike opposing President Obama’s deportation policies—and that gives her a high tolerance for the more radical members of the class of 2019. But now that Democrats have a House majority, they have an opportunity to craft a progressive agenda that can pass at least one chamber of Congress and show Americans what Democratic governance could mean come 2020. That will require big ideas and insurgent boldness, but also diligence, even discipline. Jayapal now finds herself in the less familiar role of institutionalist, helping a new wave of rebels—many of them women—to understand how to get things done in a system largely designed by and for conservative white men. Does that role surprise her a little?

“Yes!” she laughs.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is now in a strong position, having scored important new committee assignments in its high-stakes negotiations with Pelosi. (After Pelosi’s concessions, Jayapal and Pocan endorsed her return to the speakership.) Pocan credits Jayapal with leveraging their political capital to win CPC members more seats on the most important House committees, including Appropriations, Ways and Means, Intelligence, Energy, Commerce, and Financial Services.

As Pocan observes, “She’s always willing to push harder—to say to the speaker, ‘Hey, we’re 40 percent of the [Democratic] Caucus; we deserve 40 percent of the seats on the powerful committees.’” Pocan has been raising money for the CPC’s policy center, and he jokes, “I’m a lower-income guy from Kenosha; I’d never ask for the kind of money Pramila would ask for. But she’s always able to close the deal and get it done.” MoveOn’s Washington director, Ben Wikler, says Jayapal’s negotiation with Pelosi “was a brilliant demonstration of her inside/outside game,” noting that MoveOn, Indivisible, and activist Ady Barkan had likewise withheld their endorsements of Pelosi until Jayapal and Pocan announced their deal.

“We don’t want a Freedom Caucus of the left,” says Robert Cruickshank, campaign director for the activist group Demand Progressreferring to the nihilistic GOP wingnuts who made former speaker Paul Ryan’s House majority dysfunctional. “We want a caucus that can go to leadership and say, ‘We have 98 votes. If you want to get something done, you need our support; here’s what we need in exchange, and let’s get it done.’ The deals Pramila negotiated during the transition in the House put the CPC on the path toward being the power brokers—and using that power to advance a progressive agenda without grinding everything to a halt.”

It’s remarkable that Jayapal, who came to the United States from India at 16, was able to grab a leadership spot in her first term in Congress. But she never really thought of herself as a “freshman,” having spent almost 15 years as an organizer, mainly on immigrant rights, after a brief stint in the private sector and a partial term in the Washington state senate. (She left to run for Congress.) Jayapal was an early Bernie Sanders supporter, but she endorsed Hillary Clinton after the primaries and worked hard for her election. She expected to go to Congress and be a force pulling President Clinton to the left. Instead, she became one of only seven House members to object to certifying the Electoral College results that gave us President Trump.




Originally Published in The Hill

By Tal Axelrod


Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) introduced a bill Friday to repeal pay-as-you-go budgetary rules, a stipulation unpopular among progressives that requires that legislation be deficit neutral.

“I have long been concerned about PAYGO and its legislative implications,” Jayapal said in a statement. “Taking it out of the rules package does not address the real problem which is that it is a statutory requirement. That’s why today I am introducing legislation to repeal PAYGO and hold hearings immediately on why PAYGO is bad policy and bad for millions of working Americans who deserve a bold, visionary progressive agenda.”

Pay-go, which requires that any added cost of legislation be offset with new revenue or cuts elsewhere, was thrust into the spotlight after progressives criticized its inclusion in the House's recently passed rules package.

Her bill seeks to repeal the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, which extends the budgetary stipulation to all new legislation, rather than the pay-go aspect of the rules package. The Senate also has its own version of pay-go. 

Progressive Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) voted against the House package because of the budgetary rule, claiming it would make it easier to cut funding for legislative priorities.

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that pay-go was “a dark political maneuver designed to hamstring progress on healthcare+other” legislation.

However, Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Jayapal, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, voted for the rules after getting assurances from House Democratic leaders and House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) that the pay-go rule can be waived.

Jayapal declared her intention to introduce legislation to fully repeal pay-go when she announced her vote for the rules package this week.

Khanna and Ocasio-Cortez are both co-sponsors on Jayapal’s bill.


Originally Published in The Hill

By Naomi Jagoda


Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus for the 116th Congress, said they will vote for the House Democrats' rules package after two other progressives said they would vote against it due to concerns about a budget-related provision.

The rules package includes a pay-as-you-go provision that would raise a point of order against legislation that increases the deficit. Progressives are concerned that pay-as-you-go rules will make it harder to pass legislation on health care and other topics.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said they will vote against the rules package because of the budgetary provision.

But Pocan and Jayapal said they plan to vote for the rules package because they've gotten assurances from House Democratic leaders and incoming Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) that the pay-go rule can be waived.

"Chairman McGovern and House Leadership have committed to us that PAYGO will not be an impediment to advancing key progressive priorities in the 116th Congress," Pocan and Jayapal said in a statement Wednesday.

The support for the rules package from Pocan and Jayapal signals the package will likely pass. Eighteen House Democrats would need to vote against the package for it to fail.

The Progressive Caucus co-chairs said they've met with McGovern and leadership multiple times to express concerns with pay-go and that everyone agrees "that the real problem with PAYGO exists in the statute that requires it."

Under federal law, the Office of Management and Budget is required to offset deficit-increasing legislation with across-the-board cuts to mandatory spending programs. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), tweeted earlier on Wednesday that voting against the rules package would allow the White House to make spending cuts that reverse Democratic initiatives.

Pocan and Jayapal said they plan to introduce legislation to end the statutory pay-go mechanism.