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Progressive Democrats urge Biden to move faster to fulfill promises


President Biden made some major promises to the more progressive wing of his party on his way to the White House.


He said he'd forgive student loans, end new drilling on federal lands and make two years of community college free for all. So far, his record on delivering on these promises has been mixed. And in the run-up to 2024, some progressive voters and activists want Biden to do more and do it faster.

MARTIN: Deepa Shivaram covers the White House for NPR and is with us once again to tell us more about this story. Good morning.


MARTIN: So let's start with student loans. The Supreme Court blocked Biden's debt relief plan last week - obviously a disappointment for people who are counting on that, even maybe budgeting for that. But how are progressive voters responding to that? And I'm particularly interested in if they blame Biden or the court for their disappointment about all this.

SHIVARAM: Yeah. There's definitely a little bit of a sentiment among some progressive voters that Biden overpromised on forgiving student debt. You heard the president say that he knows people are disappointed, but he rejected that he gave people false hope. And he's trying to lay the blame on Republicans. But what has also stood out to progressive groups that I spoke with is that Biden bounced back with another plan immediately. It'll take longer, but they were happy that Biden didn't just throw his hands up on this issue. And they think he should apply that same strategy to some other issues as well. Here's Joseph Geevarghese. He's with a group called Our Revolution. It's a political organization which was started by supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders.

JOSEPH GEEVARGHESE: It's a mixed bag. The president's made a down payment, but he's got to fight like hell in the remaining period of time to show voters that he's doing everything in his power to deliver on the pocketbook issues that matter to him.

MARTIN: So a mixed bag - Deepa, does that suggest that it's going to cut into support for the president in 2024?

SHIVARAM: That is a matter of enthusiasm. I talked to Adam Green, who's the co-chair of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. It's a group that backed lawmakers like Senator Elizabeth Warren. But he says Biden is doing something effective. And that's the strategy of drawing contrasts with his own agenda and the agenda of right-wing Republicans.

ADAM GREEN: It's very important that Joe Biden, on behalf of all Democrats, picks very high-intensity fights with Republicans on things like economics, abortion and democracy. He really needs to make clear what the battle lines are so that regular people who live busy lives say, oh, I actually care about that. It's worth my time to vote.

SHIVARAM: And we already know that with abortion specifically, public opinion on the issue isn't in line with what Republicans are calling for. And that's a message that Biden will be taking to the trail in 2024.

MARTIN: So say more about that. Where do progressive groups think Biden can still take more aggressive action?

SHIVARAM: There's some unfinished business - things like child care, universal pre-K - that Biden's going to run on again. But climate action is a big issue where a lot of voters feel like Biden has backed out on what he promised in 2020. For example, the president campaigned on promises to end new drilling on federal lands in order to rein in emissions. But he approved a new venture in Alaska called the Willow Project earlier this year. Millions of people petitioned against it. And climate activists see it as the total about-face and a disappointment for people who voted for Biden based on his climate agenda. But I'll add here that Biden has already picked up a number of endorsements from environmental and conservation groups, and he's campaigning hard on his record on investing in clean energy projects.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Deepa Shivaram. Deepa, thank you.

SHIVARAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.