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Progressive PAC Wants to Find the “Next AOC” to Replace Manchin and Sinema

Last month, they launched an ad campaign against Manchin for his opposition to $2,000 relief checks.

Sen. Joe Manchin speaks to reporters in the Senate subway following a vote at the U.S. Capitol on February 2, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

A new PAC started by progressives who helped launch Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign wants to replace moderate Senate Democrats with more progressive ones, Politico reports. They’re setting their sights first on Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), who recently drew ire from progressives for helping Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to protect the Senate filibuster.

No Excuses PAC co-founders Saikat Chakrabarti, Corbin Trent and Zack Exley are known for their work on Sen. Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez’s campaigns and their leadership in the Justice Democrats, a progressive PAC which recruited Ocasio-Cortez to run for Congress.

Now, they want to send a message to Democrats: They have no excuses for inaction on their campaign promises and Democratic agenda with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Last month, they launched an ad campaign against Manchin for his opposition to the $2,000 relief checks going to everyone making under $75,000, and they say they will keep going as long as moderate Democrats continue to threaten Democratic and progressive policy.

“The only way we won’t [push back on Democrats] is if Democrats just push through everything that needs to be done, keep all their promises, and do what’s right for the people who just gave them the House, the Senate, the White House,” Trent told The Intercept on the intent of the PAC. Democrats and progressives have hinged many of their hopes on the new Democratic majority, but the filibuster poses a major roadblock to passing progressive policy.

Without the filibuster, Democrats could use their narrow majority in the Senate to blow through policy goals that have been waiting for this moment, like health care reform, student loan forgiveness and climate policy. But the filibuster essentially forces any bill that goes through the Senate to get 60 votes, which will be very difficult with a Republican Party led by McConnell, who is a master of using the filibuster to block the Democratic agenda.

Last month, Manchin and Sinema promised to uphold the filibuster if it were to come to a vote in the Senate, killing progressives’ hopes of abolishing it in order to pass a slate of policies. Hence, the ire from the No Excuses PAC and progressives.

“The only real way to pressure any of these folks and hold them accountable to their promises is to threaten their power, and threaten the seat that they hold and threaten their reelection,” Chakrabarti told Politico. Voters in Manchin and Sinema’s home states of West Virginia and Arizona “care more about jobs and their community and money in their pockets than they do about an arcane Senate rule called the filibuster,” the progressive PAC founders hypothesize, Chakrabarti said.

However, even with a narrow Democratic Senate majority of 51 to 50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote, these moderate Democrats could still threaten policy if they oppose something that other Democrats are trying to pass through budget reconciliation. Even one no vote on an otherwise party-line vote could kill their simple majority.

Though no Democrat has come out against President Joe Biden’s stimulus bill, for instance, questions remain as to whether Manchin opposes it; he wants more targeted relief checks and is against the $15 minimum wage proposal. While Democrats are moving forward, confident that they will pass the stimulus in the upcoming weeks, concerns about check eligibility by centrist Democrats and Republicans are threatening to weaken the bill.

Sinema and Manchin aren’t up for reelection until 2024, and it’s unlikely that a progressive will win over traditionally red West Virginia, the founders of the PAC admit. But the hope is, Politico reports, that even the threat of being primaried — or the message that Democratic voters will be upset if Democrats don’t get anything done with their majority — will scare them into backing popular progressive agenda items.

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