Weeks into his presidency, Joe Biden has already disappointed progressives, mustering tepid support for a minimum wage hike, offering new deportation powers to ICE, and slashing the amount of student loan debt his administration would erase.
Last week, Biden curbed enthusiasm for $15 minimum wage provision in a COVID-19 rescue package aimed at providing relief to millions of Americans: in a meeting with multiple mayors and governors, the president told them the boost was unlikely to happen and they should prepare for the provision not to pass, according to Politico.
“I really want this in there but it just doesn't look like we can do it because of reconciliation,” Biden told the group, Politico reported. “I’m not going to give up. But right now, we have to prepare for this not making it.”
In a CBS pre-Super Bowl interview, Biden said his “guess” is that the wage provision will not survive a vote and he couldn’t do anything about that.
“I put it in, but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden told CBS.
These defeatist remarks drew scorn from people like Hasan Piker, a progressive political commentator who said Biden does have options for passing the wage increase.
“He’s still acting like the Vice President can’t vote to overrule that protocol and push for a straight majority vote on it,” Piker said during a Twitch livestream. “It is malarkey.”
The minimum wage is currently $7.25, poverty wages even for those who work 40 hours a week. Biden said he supports the wage increase but is debating whether it should be in the COVID-19 stimulus package that would also give some United States citizens $1,400 stimulus checks.
“This is the first key decision on a real commitment to progressive values,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Fremont), who was national co-chair of Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Further upsetting progressives, Biden backed an immigration bill earlier this week that would create some restrictions on ICE and a plan to grant citizenship for undocumented citizens. However, it gives ICE more power to go after those with a criminal history—frustrating progressives who say this will harm Black and brown communities the most.
The bill would grant an eight-year track to citizenship for more than 10 million undocumented immigrants as well a new, quicker track for Dreamers who were brought to the US as children.
However, the bill doesn’t cover those who crossed the border after Jan. 1, 2021 nor those who are deemed a national security threat or who are under suspicion of espionage—and ICE would be granted the power to determine that. Any sort of criminal history can place an immigrant on ICE’s radar, giving the agency more latitude than progressives would like.
“As long as ICE has the resources to track, arrest, and deport large numbers of people, it will attempt to do so, bending the law to its prerogative,” said Naureen Shah, Senior Advocacy and Policy Counsel at the ACLU, in a statement.
In addition to these two blunders, Biden has refused to budge on offering $50,000 in debt cancelations for students—a figure relief advocates say is necessary to include all students affected by payments, even those who didn’t finish school, according to NPR. At a CNN town hall on Tuesday, the president said he won’t go further than erasing $10,000 in student debt, drawing harsh criticism from the left.
Most notably, The Squad came with the facts.
“Student debt relief is one component of a moral society. We also need to make college tuition-free so debt is not accumulated moving forward and invest in universal early education. These are not at odds!” Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted.
“Very wealthy people already have a student loan forgiveness program. It’s called their parents,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The idea that millionaires and billionaires are willingly letting their kids drown in federal student loans & that’s why we can’t go big on forgiveness is about as silly as it sounds.”