Posted on May 19, 2022

Summer Lee Could Be the Latest Addition to the Squad

Li Zhou, Vox, May 15, 2022

Pennsylvania House Rep. Summer Lee could become the latest addition to the Squad if she wins her Democratic primary on Tuesday.

Lee, one of six challengers backed by the Justice Democrats, a progressive PAC, is running to fill an open seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District vacated by Rep. Mike Doyle. It’s a safe Democratic seat that includes Pittsburgh and the surrounding suburbs, and it’s poised to be a key pickup for progressives, should Lee win her race this week.


Gains in the progressives’ bloc in 2020 enabled the group to have more leverage over what policies to focus on and the timing of key votes this term. For example, progressives initially delayed a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill in order to push consideration of social spending legislation. In 2022, progressives are eyeing more victories in places like Pennsylvania, Texas, and New York — all of which could help them strengthen their hand even further.


In addition to being the only woman and elected official running in this primary, Lee would be the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress if elected. {snip}


A Lee victory would help grow progressive power in Congress, adding to recent wins in this cycle and last.

In addition to Casar’s win, progressive immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros was able to force Rep. Henry Cuellar into a runoff for Texas’ 28th Congressional District. Justice Democrats have also backed organizers Kina Collins in Illinois’ Seventh District, Rana Abdelhamid in New York’s 12th District, and Odessa Kelly in Tennessee’s Seventh District in upcoming primaries.

Six new staunch progressives could seriously strengthen progressives’ influence in Congress. This term, progressives were able to have more sway given Democrats’ narrow majority in the House. They’ve used that power to push for more expansive stimulus checks and to bargain for more aggressive prescription drug legislation.

If Republicans retake House control, as they’re widely expected to, progressive power would be somewhat diminished, as Democrats would no longer control the agenda. However, they’d likely play a key role in leading Democrats’ anti-GOP messaging, and helping to counter investigations of the Biden administration as well. In the past, progressives were among the first to begin pushing for Trump’s impeachment and among the most vocal opponents of policies like family separations.

With greater numbers, progressives would be able to mount even stronger rhetorical campaigns to push back against a GOP-controlled House. They’d also be able to put more pressure on party leaders to take these types of stances.

New progressives like Lee could also bolster the subgroup of more liberal members within the Progressive Caucus, known as the Squad. Currently, the Squad includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Jamaal Bowman, and Cori Bush. If all six Justice Democrat candidates win this cycle, its size could double, giving them more sway as a bloc within a bloc.


“I think about all the communities in Pennsylvania that have not seen the type of representation that I’m looking to bring and to offer — folks who will value and really lift up poor working folks, and Black and brown folks, and I recognize there’s a cohort of people who’ve already been fighting for that,” Lee said in an MSNBC interview. “And it would be an honor to join that.”