De Blasio’s National “Contract With America” Strategy Leaks
First New York City. Then America.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is heading to Washington, D.C. next week to present a progressive “Contract with America,” a 13-point agenda intended to push the Democratic Party leftward.
According to a draft of the document provided to The Daily Beast by someone asked to join the effort, de Blasio will call for a number of measures for which he has already pushed in New York City, including national paid sick leave and free, universal pre-kindergarten and afterschool programs.
During the 2013 mayoral campaign, de Blasio used his support of paid sick leave to pummel the Democratic front-runner, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, sparking his come-from-behind victory. De Blasio then signed an expansive law on the topic soon after becoming mayor. Universal pre-K became de Blasio’s signature accomplishment of his first year in office, even if his mechanism to pay for it—a tax on the city’s upper-income earners—was rejected by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The contract will also put de Blasio in the center of some of the debates currently roiling Washington. According to a draft of the document circulated this week, de Blasio will call for the passage of comprehensive immigration and for Democrats to “oppose trade deals that hand more power to corporations at the expense of American jobs, workers’ rights, and the environment.”
President Barack Obama has called for a new Pacific trade deal that he says would open up new markets for American goods. He has received little support for that view among Democrats, however, and Hillary Clinton has declined to back the agreement.
Some of the items on de Blasio’s wish list have not yet been made a priority in his time as mayor, like universal free child care and a $15-per-hour minimum wage. The mayor has pushed for a $13 minimum wage indexed to inflation, which would not rise to $15 until 2019. The mayor’s push locally for the $13 minimum wage has likewise been rejected by Albany.
De Blasio is expected to be joined in Washington by a more than 60 members of Congress, progressive activists, and labor leaders, among them Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, Congressmen Keith Ellison and Raul Grijalva, and the actor Susan Sarandon. Last month de Blasio convened a number of progressive thinkers at Gracie Mansion, including Nation editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel and civil rights activist Van Jones to hash out ideas about how to build a progressive agenda in 2016. De Blasio has pointedly declined to endorse Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, even though he was the campaign manager of her 2000 Senate run in New York and even though both Bill and Hillary Clinton were on stage with de Blasio at his inauguration.
Aides to de Blasio dismiss the suggestion that this effort is designed to lift de Blasio’s profile, and say instead that it is intended to get a more progressive government into Washington, D.C.—one that will be more attentive to New York City’s needs. The contract is modeled on Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, which helped Republicans retake the House in 1994.
Many of the items that de Blasio calls for are unlikely to pass, even with a Democratic president and a Democratic congress, such as the “Buffet Rule,” which would force millionaires to pay a higher tax rate.
Among some of the other items expected to be on de Blasio’s agenda are a reform of the National Labor Relations Act “to enhance workers’ rights to organize and rebuild the middle class,” the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, allowing students to refinance student loan debt, closing the carried interest loop, ending tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and the closing of a “CEO tax loophole that allows corporations to take advantage of ‘performance pay’ write-offs.”