As Georgia Runoffs Lean Democrat, Progressives Lay Out Policy Battlegrounds

Leading progressive Democrats have seized on the anticipated double-victory of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate runoffs to lay out their policy priorities for a Congress that sits in their party's hands.

The almost-certain wins for the two Georgian Democrats mean the Senate is now split 50-50 between the Democratic caucus and Republicans, with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris holding the deciding vote.

Progressives are demanding a Democratic agenda that brings substantial change and will use any leverage they have inside and out of Congress to secure their policy wishes. A smaller Democratic majority in the House gifts progressives added clout.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, spelt out the key areas of policy focus for Democratic progressives on Wednesday morning.

She called in a tweet for: "Expansive COVID relief inclu survival checks, Raise Fed min wage of at least $15, Green renewable energy infrastructure package putting ppl back to work w/union jobs, Humane immigration policy."

In a follow-up tweet, she promised to push for: "Racial Justice, Guaranteed Healthcare for all, $$$ out of politics & democracy reform, Bold climate justice, Universal childcare, paid leave, domestic workers bill of rights, pay equity, Public education, free college."

She signed off with: "Just getting started #ForThePeople."

Jayapal also retweeted immigration advocate Alida Garcia, who said: "Ossoff and Warnock both ran with a pro immigrant platform in the South."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who retweeted Jayapal, herself called for retroactive COVID relief, student loan cancellation, climate justice, healthcare, voting rights and an end to the death penalty to be priorities.

Shahid Buttar, a civil rights lawyer and progressive activist who challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her California seat in the House of Representatives, was more direct.

"Once the Republican Senate is out of the way, Washington Democrats will have no excuses," Buttar tweeted. "Watch carefully which bills come up for votes in the House. The proof will be in the pudding."

Progressive members of the party will play an important role within the new political landscape. Often younger, and critically engaged with issues of social justice, the group is motivated, well-organized, and high-profile.

They are seen as providing a possible future blueprint for the Democrats, built around radical green and welfare policies. But they are also a potential problem for the party leadership and a faultline within its ranks as they seek to maintain caucus unity.

Ossoff and Warnock Supporters in Georgia Senate
Supporters of Democratic US Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and the Reverend Raphael Warnock campaign on a street corner on January 4, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Their projected victory means the Democrats now hold the balance of power in the Senate, leading to calls from progressive figures within the party for change Brandon Bell/Getty