White House

House liberals start asking Biden to sidestep Congress — months before the midterms

Nearly eight months out from the midterms, some House Democrats are acting like they’ve already lost their majority.

Liberal Democrats in the lower chamber are so frustrated by Senate standoffs that they’re now imploring President Joe Biden to pursue as much of the party’s agenda as he can without them. They want him to sidestep the evenly split upper chamber, and the outsized influence its two Democratic centrists wield, to take executive action on everything from immigration reform to lowering gas prices.

It’s a remarkable pitch for a party that will retain full control of Washington, D.C., at least through the end of the year. But many lawmakers on the left — the progressive wing, the Black Caucus and even some members of leadership — say they have little choice after they’ve passed bills on almost every piece of Biden’s agenda, only to see them languish or outright die in the Senate.

And for many Democrats who are retiring or may lose their seats, this year is their last chance to see their priorities advance.

“People are realizing that, at this point in the cycle, executive order is probably where you’re going to start seeing more things get done,” said Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), ticking off still unfinished items, including voting reforms and a policing overhaul bill named for George Floyd. Brown’s among the Democrats eyeing the congressional exits this year; he’s running for attorney general of his state.

The legislative window is rapidly closing ahead of the November elections, which threaten to send House Democrats back to the minority before they’ve achieved some of their loftiest campaign promises. While they still say the Senate could take up more of Biden’s goals, the new widespread focus on executive actions illustrates their intense anxiety that Congress may not deliver — leaving them with nothing new to tout to voters this fall.

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