Pramila Jayapal: The rising star in US politics
United States (US) lawmaker Pramila Jayapal has met President Joe Biden twice in as many days and is in continuous touch with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has held talks with fellow Democrats on the other side of a bitter inner-party battle over an ambitious legislative agenda, and has appeared on every news channel and radio show of consequence.
Always calm, always on point, and always positive. “Jayapal is providing a master class these last few weeks in how to wield power,” noted a top Democratic operative in a tweet. The Washington Post took a close look at her recent rise in a story titled “Rep. Jayapal has emerged as a forceful leader of House liberals. This week will test what policy priorities she can deliver.” And an opinion piece in The New York Times detailed her rise in terms of the outsize role she is playing in shaping the Biden presidency under this headline: “Pramila Jayapal won’t let the Biden presidency fail”. Jayapal indeed has that power, and she is wielding it with dexterity.
Giddy with, and in, her sudden rise in a city teeming with showboaters who would do anything to get noticed, many Indian-Americans have begun seeing her as Speaker of the House of Representatives some day, a position that is second in line to the American presidency. And if she does get there during Biden’s presidency — chances are low to nil — Indian-Americans would be in both number one and number two positions in the line of presidential succession. Vice-President Kamala Harris is the first.
Jayapal’s recent rise is anchored in the leadership role she is playing in the passage of some of President Biden’s most ambitious and potentially transformative legislative agendas, as chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It’s a group of about 100 Democratic members of the House of Representatives, which is 45% of the 220 Democratic members in all. It includes Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (popularly known as AOC), Ilhan Umar, Ro Khanna, and Rashid Tlaib, and who are blessed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
The progressive caucus is withholding its assent for the passage of a bipartisan legislation passed by the US senate earlier to spend $1.2 trillion on infrastructure — a Biden initiative. It is insisting on simultaneous — or prior —passage of Build Back Better Act, another Biden initiative that proposes an expenditure of $3.5 trillion over the next 10 years on expanding the social safety net and combating the climate crisis, which are key progressive issues. But it has run into opposition from two Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who have issues with the price tag and some of the proposed expenditures.
Jayapal is in the middle of this inner-party fight. And whichever way it resolves itself, she will be holding a much embellished resume that would keep her in the running for every higher office she aspires to, except the White House, which is open only to American-born Americans. But for someone who came to the US at the age of 16, she has come a long way in the 40 years hence.
The views expressed are personal