‘Enormously insulting’: Sanders warns Biden not to shut out progressives

Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders warned that President-elect Joe Biden will feel the wrath of the political left if he shuts out progressives from serving in important posts in his administration.

“It seems to me pretty clear that progressive views need to be expressed within a Biden administration,” Sanders told The Associated Press.

“It would be, for example, enormously insulting if Biden put together a ‘team of rivals’ — and there’s some discussion that that’s what he intends to do — which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats — but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate.”

The warning shot from Sanders — whom Biden defeated in the Democratic Party — comes as speculation mounts that the Vermont senator and fellow progressive Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren might be excluded from the top ranks of the Biden administration.

The two liberal New England senators are open to serving in Biden’s Cabinet — Sanders potentially as labor secretary and Warren as treasury secretary.

Biden has to balance competing demands — including the fact that his appointments require support from a likely Republican-led Senate. Republicans hold a 50-48 edge, with two seats in Georgia to be decided in a Jan. 5 run-off.

GOP lawmakers will be less inclined to confirm far-left nominations.

In a nod to the left wing, Biden’s transition team tapped Analilia Mejia, a Sanders adviser who served as his presidential campaign’s political director, to work on progressive outreach.

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezGetty Images

But it’s unlikely that mid-level hires during the transition will be enough to satisfy progressives.

New York Democratic Socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her leftist network are also pressuring Biden to adopt progressive policies such as the “Green New Deal” as well as make progressive appointments.

They have already criticized some of Biden’s early hires.

Biden told reporters Thursday that his choice for Treasury secretary would be “someone who will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic party, moderates and progressives.”

He declined to answer a question about Sanders joining his cabinet as he walked off stage.

Biden’s transition team declined comment publicly about Sanders or Warren.

Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for the Sanders and AOC-aligned Justice Democrats, said his group and others recognize that “not every single member of the administration is going to be progressive — that’s not who Joe Biden is.”

He said progressives simply want “adequate representation” in the Cabinet.

“We are advocating for them to be included, but we also have backup choices,” he said of Warren and Sanders.

Understanding that Sanders and Warren are political lightning rods, liberal groups do have a plan B that includes pushing lesser-known liberal leaders such as Michigan Rep. Andy Levin for Labor secretary and former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to lead the Department of Treasury.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds great sway over Biden’s Cabinet nominees regardless of which party ends up in control.

The Senate’s top Republican has yet to show his hand about how he’ll navigate the confirmation process, preferring to wait for Trump to concede the election and Georgia’s Senate elections to play out. But Senate Democrats expect McConnell to impose a full-scale blockade on Cabinet picks he doesn’t like.

Biden will be the first Democratic president in modern times attempting to set up a first-term administration without his party controlling the Senate, a rare dynamic that will play out before a bitterly divided nation and a hyper-partisan Senate.

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