Oct 26, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar: The Squad expects liberal turn from Biden after election

Rep. Ilhan Omar told "Axios on HBO" that given the way progressives have shaped Joe Biden's policy platform, she and other members of "The Squad" expect a liberal turn from him if he's elected.

Why it matters: Progressives have largely refrained from publicly criticizing Biden in the lead-up to the election, even though he hasn't signed on to their most far-reaching policies. Instead, they're focusing solely on beating Trump.

  • But Omar's comments reflect the pressure campaign they'll launch if he's elected to ensure that their liberal policies become law.

"We will have a cohort of progressives that are very clear about their objectives for wanting the implementation of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal and raising the minimum wage and not allowing for fracking," Omar said.

  • "There has been a level of responsiveness ... to the policies that we are advocating for that we know will have not just a future in his administration, but a future in the upcoming administrations after his," she added.
  • "As progressives, we have a clear understanding of what the inside and outside game is."

What she's saying: "I know that when the policy platform was being put into place, a lot of our feedback was incorporated throughout his platform," Omar said.

  • "In some spaces, it doesn't go as far as, you know, I would like or Bernie [Sanders] would like. But we know that that responsiveness is a signal for us to do what we know how to do best as progressives, which is to push and to mobilize our base trying to accomplish these policy objectives."
  • If Biden is elected, progressives will be pushing him on personnel in addition to policy. Omar said she would not be OK with Biden appointing any Republicans to his Cabinet — something he is reportedly considering.
  • "We do want a more unified country, and we do want a space where we can debate our policy differences but not see each other as the enemy," she said. But she sees a danger if a Biden administration includes people who support "policies that are contrary to what the Democratic platform is."

The big picture: Proposals like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, enacting a $15 minimum wage (which Biden supports), and banning fracking are all top priorities for "The Squad" if Biden wins.

  • But conversations around police reform, immigration and campaign finance will take a sharp turn to the left if Biden is elected because Omar and other progressives expect to have a seat at the table during those discussions.
  • "The president is only as successful as his collaboration is with Congress," Omar said.

Between the lines: Biden ran as a moderate compared to some of his 2020 primary rivals, most notably Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was endorsed by Omar and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib. (Rep. Ayanna Pressley, the fourth member of "The Squad," endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren.)

  • But even Sanders has said that Biden is poised to become "the most progressive president since FDR" if he enacts what they've put together in his policy platform so far.

The bottom line: The intra-party fight might not be public, but progressives like Omar plan to push the Biden team behind the scenes to ensure their progress isn't matched by moderation.

  • "We know that every step forward can sometimes mean two steps back. And our work really is trying to be vigilant this time that the steps back are not as drastic as the steps forward we're taking," she said.
  • "So what we are committed to is doing the work in trying to make sure that we are creating a mass movement to try to have the mass changes we need in policy."
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