Progressive group Justice Democrats rebukes Biden White House picks
November 17, 2020
The group Justice Democrats, which helped elect Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of the left-wing "Squad," recoiled Tuesday at President-elect Joe Biden's White House staff picks.
The influential organization's public rebuke reflects an internal Democratic Party power struggle two months before Biden takes office.
"A Biden administration dominated by corporate-friendly insiders will not help usher in the most progressive Democratic administration in generations... progressives find corporate-friendly Biden appointments unacceptable" the organization wrote on Twitter.
The group objected to Biden picking Steve Ricchetti to be a counselor to the president -- a position held under President Trump by trusted aides including Kellyanne Conway -- and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) to be a senior adviser, a role currently held by first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner.
Progressives including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are jockeying for roles in the Biden administration, while a narrower House majority for Democrats boosts the potential influence of lawmakers including Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who regularly resists top-down pressure from centrist party leaders.
Justice Democrats executive director Alexandra Rojas wrote, "If Joe Biden continues making corporate-friendly appointments to his White House, he will risk quickly fracturing the hard-earned goodwill his team built with progressives to defeat Donald Trump."
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Joe Biden is greeted by US Congressman Cedric Richmond.
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Rojas wrote that Ricchetti "is a former pharma lobbyist and has represented groups vociferously opposed to Medicare For All and the public manufacturing of prescription drugs. In this post-COVID era, Biden has a chance to make major reforms to our cruel health care system but it will require standing up to private power."
Richmond, Rojas said, "is one of the top Democratic recipients of fossil fuel money. Richmond received $92,000 from oil and gas corporate PACs this year, including Exxon. Richmond has been aggressively criticized by his own constituents for failing to act on their concerns revolving around industry regulations and the climate crisis. This move gives greater urgency for Joe Biden to create an Office of Climate Mobilization on Day One and appoint progressives with records standing up to the fossil fuel industry."
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The Justice Democrats leader wrote: "Progressives make up nearly half of the Democratic Party's seats in the House of Representatives and should receive adequate representation in the Biden administration."
The left-wing organization became influential in 2018 when it helped elect Ocasio-Cortez in New York and three allied freshmen congresspeople who collectively were nicknamed "The Squad," including Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
This year, the group led further disruption to Democratic politics, including helping protest leader Cori Bush unseat long-serving Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay in a primary. Bush won the general election Nov. 3.
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