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In Washington, NYC mayor touts national liberal vision

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, for a news conference to announce the "Progressive Agenda" along with a coalition of backers. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, fashioning himself as one of the left’s loudest voices on economic causes, appeared in Washington on Tuesday to make two stops on his national tour to tout the need to fight income inequality — one with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the other to unveil his national liberal political platform — before meeting with President Barack Obama.

De Blasio, a first-term Democrat, unveiled what he has dubbed “The Progressive Agenda” just outside the U.S. Capitol, touting its principles as key stepping stones to cut the gap between the nation’s rich and poor.

The 13-point plan is, in part, based on what de Blasio has done in New York, including setting up paid sick leave and universal free pre-kindergarten. But it also has planks far beyond the powers of a big-city mayor, calling for sweeping immigration reform, closing tax loopholes that benefit the rich and opposing trade deal deals that are bad for American workers and the environment.

“Something different is happening. It’s a movement from the grass roots. It’s an urgent call for change,” de Blasio said during a news conference where he was joined by dozens of fellow liberals, including former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro and civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton.

“It’s time to take that energy and crystalize it into an agenda that will make a difference,” de Blasio continued. “It’s time to put people ahead of profits and value work over wealth.”

The coalition of liberals — who said more planks would be added to the platform — is trying to make an impact on the national political conversation and move elected officials and potential candidates to the left on many economic issues.

Earlier in the day, de Blasio joined Warren at an economic forum hosted by the nonprofit Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank, and echoed the Massachusetts senator by saying “the system is rigged to benefit those at the top and to leave everybody else behind.”

He praised Warren’s “extraordinary” leadership on economic issues, a comment sure to be parsed by political pundits, considering de Blasio’s reluctance to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 2016 Democratic front-runner for president and someone with whom the mayor has close ties. De Blasio drew some criticism when he said last month that he wanted to see more from Clinton on income inequality before he would officially offer her his support.

Warren has been floated as formidable liberal challenger to Clinton, though she has repeatedly said she is not running.

The mayor wrapped up his day with a White House meeting with Obama. The White House said the two men discussed “a range of issues” as well as Obama’s appearance at a Georgetown University poverty summit earlier Tuesday.

De Blasio’s speech echoed themes he has hit during his recent travel to Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin. After spending Wednesday in Washington as well, he is bound for California, where he will make two more speeches on income inequality.

The surge in travel has prompted some criticism in New York from those who feel he is ignoring the needs of his constituents; de Blasio has made as many trips to the Midwest in 2015 as he has made official visits to the city’s borough of Staten Island. But he has insisted that he can help New Yorkers at home by influencing national policies and political conversations.

But New Yorkers seem less sure, according to a poll released as de Blasio began speaking at the Capitol.

A Quinnipiac University poll found that 46 percent of voters believe de Blasio has been distracted by his increased involvement in national politics. And the mayor’s overall approval rating was at 44 percent, an all-time low.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. A mayoral spokesman downplayed the poll’s findings.

“Polls go up and polls go down, but one thing that is certain and constant is Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to combatting income inequality in New York City,” spokesman Wiley Norvell said.

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Lemire reported from New York.

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