Looking Ahead to 2021 in Congress
How optimistic are you about the prospects for 2021 in Congress?
by Causes | 12.31.20
- With 2020 in the rearview mirror and a new Congress to be seated this weekend on January 3, 2021, here’s a look ahead at some key areas to watch in the year ahead.
Additional COVID-19 Relief
- Congress enacted well over $3 trillion in funding to address the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic between March and December of 2020, and lawmakers may enact additional relief in 2021.
- Among the issues that lawmakers were still hoping to reach a bipartisan, bicameral compromise on were increased “recovery rebate” stimulus payments to Americans; additional aid to state and local governments; and liability protection from lawsuits for businesses, healthcare providers, and schools that make a good faith effort to comply with public health guidelines.
- Following his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden will formally submit nominations to fill posts within his administration. Depending on the nominees’ resumes and whether Republicans retain their Senate majority, some of Biden’s picks may face contentious confirmation processes.
- Biden’s selection of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Dept. of Health and Human Services is likely the most controversial nomination Biden has announced to date, due to his relative lack of experience in healthcare and his record as a political partisan.
- Additionally, Biden’s to-be-announced pick to serve as attorney general is certain to face questions about whether they would stymie ongoing Dept. of Justice investigations into the overseas business dealings of Hunter Biden and the origins of the Russia collusion probe.
Mandate for Moderation
- Democrats will hold one of the narrowest majorities the House of Representatives has seen in decades at the outset of the 117th Congress, while control of the Senate hinges on a pair of Georgia runoff elections that will determine whether Republicans remain in the majority or Democrats can force a 50-50 split that gives them control of the floor by virtue of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie breaking vote.
- Unless Democrats sweep the Georgia runoffs and the party’s senators uniformly decide to abolish the 60-vote threshold for legislation to overcome a filibuster, the only viable path for bills to become law in the 117th Congress will be through bipartisan compromise. That will force leaders on both sides of the aisle to work together in crafting legislation, and empower the more moderate lawmakers in both parties.
- Amid the national discussion about racial injustice and civil unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25th, Congress debated the merits of proposals to reform policing.
- Ultimately, Democrats and Republicans were unable to reconcile their differing visions for police reform despite a number of similarities, and the issue fell by the wayside of the political debate in Congress due to the focus on the election and coronavirus. That creates an opportunity for the 117th Congress to address the issue.
Return to Regular Order
- One of the constants in Congress in recent decades is that, regardless of the composition of the House and Senate, lawmakers have struggled mightily to process the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government’s discretionary activities.
- The inability to approve spending bills on time ― something that Congress has only succeeded at four times since fiscal year 1977 ― has resulted in lawmakers frequently turning to short-term continuing resolutions and omnibus packages that lump numerous spending bills together to prevent government government shutdowns.
- Bipartisan leaders in each chamber, particularly those on the appropriations committee, routinely express a desire to return to regular order in terms of government funding. The appropriations process for fiscal year 2022, which begins on October 1, 2021, will begin in the first quarter of this year.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / sborisov)
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