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Progressive In Name Only

A national progressive organization with more than 1 million online supporters today released a detailed report revealing that many members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have voting records that are far from “progressive.”

The report, released by RootsAction.org, evaluated members of the Progressive Caucus on the basis of key votes, campaign donations, congressional testimony, and other records. The research shows that many members of the caucus are “progressive in name only”—or, PINOs. "On core progressive policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, cutting military spending, robust civil liberties, and more, these caucus members function more like corporate centrists—opposing significant challenges to the status quo and protecting corporate power along with endless war.”

On core progressive policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, cutting military spending, robust civil liberties, and more, these caucus members function more like corporate centrists

The report “identified six especially problematic PINOs who are not living up to their progressive pretenses: Reps. Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Donald Norcross (NJ-1), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-at large).”

A few highlights from the report:

  • Congresswoman Madeleine Dean: “Representing a Democratic-leaning district in southeastern Pennsylvania, mostly in suburbs of Philadelphia, Dean is the only CPC member who scored a full 100 percent wrong on core progressive issues in our review. Now in her second term, Rep. Dean has already disappointed some of her supporters, including labor activists demanding she take stronger stands on healthcare.”
  • Congressman Donald Norcross: “Norcross represents a heavily Democratic congressional district that includes the impoverished city of Camden and New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia. … While Norcross supported the COVID-vaccine waiver, he has often failed to back progressive priorities. Norcross has not co-sponsored either Green New Deal measure, and he voted for legislation in 2018 to boost natural gas exports.”
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  • Congressman Jimmy Panetta: “Following in his father’s footsteps, Jimmy Panetta represents the same Central California Coast district—overwhelmingly Democratic—that elected Leon Panetta for nine terms. ... Panetta seems to have inherited his father’s hawkish tendencies, voting to reauthorize the misnamed USA Freedom Act, backing military spending increases, and opposing Rep. Pocan’s and AOC’s modest attempts to rein in the military budget. Panetta also signed the letter undermining a renewed Iran nuclear deal.”
  • Congressman Joe Morelle:  “Elected in 2018 to replace the late Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, Joe Morelle represents New York’s 25th District, centered in Rochester. This strongly Democratic district cast a 60 percent vote for Biden in the 2020 general election (and 59 percent for Morelle’s reelection). When the CPC endorsed Morelle for reelection in 2019, it called him “a true champion of the progressive values CPC stands for.” Unfortunately, on a host of key progressive values, Morelle has often acted more like a corporate centrist. Though Morelle supported the COVID-vaccine trade waiver, he has not sided with progressive leadership on much else.”
  • Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester: “While Delaware is a blue state (D+6, choosing Biden by 58 percent in 2020), Blunt Rochester has consistently been one of the most conservative members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. … Blunt Rochester has not supported Jayapal’s Medicare for All legislation. Notably, Blue Cross/Blue Shield is among her top campaign contributors this cycle. … Blunt Rochester also failed to support either Green New Deal measure, and did not back the COVID-vaccine TRIPS waiver push. … Strikingly, Blunt Rochester was one of only two Progressive Caucus members who voted with Republicans in 2018 to weaken banking regulations in the Dodd-Frank Act, the Democrats’ fairly limited 2010 Wall Street reform law.”
  • Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence: “She supported Keith Ellison for DNC chair in 2017, saying: ‘he’s progressive.’ Yet despite representing Michigan's most Democratic district—a shade bluer than Rashida Tlaib's district—Lawrence scored 75 percent wrong on progressive legislation, failing to cosponsor either Green New Deal measure, while backing military spending increases and opposing Rep. Pocan’s modest 10 percent military reduction in 2020 (though she favored a nearly identical measure this year). … Lawrence signed the March 2021 AIPAC-organized letter undercutting efforts to revive an Iran nuclear deal—and voted to reauthorize the USA Freedom Act, which further expands the surveillance state and diminishes civil liberties.”

The heavily-documented report, written by award-winning journalist Christopher D. Cook and edited by RootsAction co-founder Jeff Cohen, also bestowed a “Dishonorable Mention” on seven other Progressive Caucus members.

"Our research shows that many caucus members don’t actually legislate like progressives," Cook said today. “How can we achieve these critical reforms when some so-called ‘progressives’ refuse to challenge the status quo? Some of these folks in strongly Democratic districts seem ripe for a serious progressive primary challenge, if not this coming year then certainly in 2024."

Cohen added: “Our report suggests that a more unified and cohesive CPC, a caucus with more genuine progressives and fewer PINOs, would be a much more formidable force on Capitol Hill, and a better ally with progressive movement activists across the country."

The full reportMeet the PINOs: “Progressive In Name Only”can be read here