WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lily Gardner, a 17-year-old from Lexington, Ky., said it was her upbringing in Salyersville, Ky. that spawned her passion about addressing climate change.
"Growing up in Appalachia surrounded by coal companies and extractive industries, it was really impossible not to understand the impact that fossil fuels have had on whole communities," Gardner said.
The high school senior is a national spokesperson for the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate justice organization. She said the early actions of the Biden administration have left her feeling hopeful.
"Cancelling the Keystone XL Pipeline and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, it’s really clear President Biden wants to be an international climate leader," Gardner said.
Biden invited dozens of world leaders to the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate this month. But Gardner is looking to Biden to lead on more progressive policy victories on issues like raising the federal minimum wage.
She also wants the President to support eliminating the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most bills to clear the Senate.
Gardner said allowing bills to advance with a simple majority in the upper chamber would be one way to assure passage of Biden's next legislative proposal, a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes initiatives to improve the environment.
"We are looking for investments in housing, in a Civilian Climate Corps and transportation in particular," she said.
Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus cite the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package with its direct payments they refer to as "survival checks" and a child tax credit as the greatest achievement of the administration's first 100 days.
"I think you will see that it has facilitated a lot of progressive programs around the country and I’m very proud of that," said Rep. John Yarmuth, (D-KY).
"They have done a really great job, for the most, part on coming out with a very bold American Rescue Plan that had all of our progressive priorities in there, things that the Progressive movement fought for when people thought those ideas were radical," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA), who leads the caucus.
But conservatives argue Biden is alienating moderate voters and endangering his future electoral prospects.
"Joe Biden may have won the nomination but I think Bernie Sanders won the war of what the Democratic Party nationally is these days," said Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) at a news conference earlier this month in Kentucky.
Garrett Bess, vice president of government relations and communications of Heritage Action, a group that lobbies Congress in support of conservative policies, said Biden also risks burning any good will he has with Republicans.
"If I were a progressive, I probably would be pretty happy with what the administration has done or is trying to do so far. A lot of people who voted for President Biden voted for him on the basis that he would fulfill his promises to unify the country, to be sort of a President for everyone," Bess said.
Progressives seem to be just getting started.
"I believe in this work because I believe the ways in which we are pushing President Biden are the ways that are necessary to the scale that both climate and justice demand," Gardner said.