Progressives demand Biden act alone to implement agenda after Manchin kills massive spending bill

Psaki said no conversations yet on executive action, but did not take it off the table

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House progressives are calling on President Biden to use his executive power to implement parts of Democrats' massive legislative agenda, which stalled out in the Senate this month when Sen. Joe Manchin said he cannot vote for it.

"Today, the elected leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on the President and all Democrats who believe in the need to Build Back Better for climate, care, immigrants, and those seeking economic dignity and opportunity to come together and deliver for the American people," the Congressional Progressive Caucus said in a statement. 

"That means a whole-of-government approach," it continued. "In Congress, we will continue to prioritize a legislative path for Build Back Better… In the meantime, the White House must continue to act on a parallel track by using the President’s incredibly powerful tool of executive action."

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling during an event in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Washington. 

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling during an event in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said earlier this week that she hopes Biden will act alone to implement parts of the reconciliation bill. 

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"There's too much at stake and there is a very powerful tool in the president's ability to take executive action," she said. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the White House hasn't had significant conversations yet on taking executive action regarding the bill, but did not take the option off the table.

"We have used executive authority and executive action for a range of steps to make a range of progress and the president has not hesitated to do that. The benefit of legislation is obviously it makes it permanent," she said. "So there's a lot of value in that." 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is calling on President Biden to use his executive powers to implement parts of Democrats' massive reconciliation spending bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is calling on President Biden to use his executive powers to implement parts of Democrats' massive reconciliation spending bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

It's not clear what exact provisions of the bill the White House could enact on its own. By its nature, the reconciliation spending bill appropriates a massive amount of additional funding for new and existing federal programs. 

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Because it's Congress' job to appropriate money, Biden's authority will to enact many of the expensive programs will be highly limited. And such actions could be the subject of lawsuits that argue the president overstepped his authority. 

But previous presidents used the limited discretion available to them to enact significant policies through executive actions, sometimes finding a way to redirect money from one part of the government to another. Former President Donald Trump did this to find money for a border wall with Mexico during his term. 

The Progressive Caucus said it plans to detail which actions it says the White House can and should take as Congress continues to try to find the votes to pass Democrats' ambitious agenda. 

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks at a press conference outside his office on Capitol Hill on Oct. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin is under heavy fire from inside his paty after he said he will not vote for Democrats' massive reconciliation bill.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks at a press conference outside his office on Capitol Hill on Oct. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Manchin is under heavy fire from inside his paty after he said he will not vote for Democrats' massive reconciliation bill. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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"The Progressive Caucus will soon release a comprehensive vision for this plan of action, which will include immediate focus on actions that lower costs, protect the health of every family who calls America home in this time of surging Omicron cases, and show the world that America is serious about our leadership on climate action," it said. 

Such executive action, it said, would deliver as much of Democrats' agenda as possible as soon as possible, while emphasizing that Democrats are serious about implementing their plans. 

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"The legislative approach, while essential, has no certainty of timing or results — and we simply cannot wait to deliver tangible relief to people that they can feel and will make a difference in their lives and livelihoods," the progressives' statement said. "We also believe that executive action will make it clear to those who oppose the legislative path, and continue to put hurdles in its way, that the White House and Democrats will ensure we deliver relief for people now."

Fox News' Caroline McKee contributed to this report.