Nov 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

AOC and Ilhan Omar want to block Biden’s former chief of staff

Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are boosting a petition against Joe Biden nominating his former chief of staff to a new role in his administration, calling Bruce Reed a "deficit hawk” and criticizing his past support for Social Security and Medicare cuts.

Why it matters: Progressives are mounting their pressure campaign after the president-elect did not include any of their favored candidates in his first slate of Cabinet nominees, and they are serious about installing some of their allies, blocking anyone who doesn't pass their smell test — and making noise if they are not heard.

Driving the news: Some progressives have privately said the order of Biden's announcements was important to send an early signal the incoming administration took them seriously. So far, they’re suspicious of some of the people being named or rumored for jobs — but happy with John Kerry, Janet Yellen, Alejandro Mayorkas and Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Omar (D-Minn.) and fellow Squad member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are the first sitting members of Congress to sign the petition, which objects to Reed potentially serving as head of the Office of Management and Budget. It was launched by Justice Democrats.

  • "Rejecting Reed will be a major test for the soul of the Biden presidency," it says, demanding that OMB "be staffed with people who will prioritize working people, not Wall Street deficit scaremongers."
  • Reed led the Bowles-Simpson Commission under Barack Obama, which progressives opposed because it made cuts to Social Security and Medicare. "Biden must not repeat Obama’s mistake," the petition says.
  • The Biden transition team didn't respond to a request for comment by publication time.

What they're saying: Omar told Axios she's "proud to join Justice Democrats and our progressive coalition in saying no to deficit hawks.”

  • "If the Biden administration is serious about protecting Medicare and Social Security, they must not appoint one of the biggest champions of cuts to lead their budget agency," she said in her statement.

The backdrop: Incoming Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush — who are also backing the petition — attended a protest last week outside the Democratic National Committee urging Biden to keep his promise to pass a $2 trillion climate policy.

  • Separately, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee employed the help of actor Mark Ruffalo today to blast an e-mail to their nearly 1 million members. It urged Biden to pick Rep. Deb Haaland — a progressive elected in the 2018 midterms — for secretary of the Interior.
  • The group also celebrated Kerry and Yellen's inclusion in Monday's administration announcements, saying: "This shows that the hard work of progressives has paid off, and there's more to come."

Between the lines: Progressive groups and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party have been in communication with staff on the Biden-Harris transition team, discussing personnel and policy, according to people involved in those discussions.

  • Ocasio-Cortez was the co-chair of the Biden-Sanders Task Force on climate change leading up to the Democratic National Convention last summer.

Progressives scored a win this week when the transition team said it will name a "high-level White House Climate Policy Coordinator" next month.

  • Sunrise Movement, the progressive climate change group, Justice Democrats, as well as incumbent and incoming members of the Squad have been pushing for Biden-Harris administration to create a climate mobilization office.
  • They're happy with Kerry's announcement as a special presidential envoy for climate change, but want a domestic equivalent, like John Podesta or Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee.

The bottom line: While left-wing Democrats have had a seat at the table, they don’t want Biden-Harris administration to morph into a third Obama term.

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