Jan 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

What to expect from the new Congress

Nancy Pelosi holds up a gavel while standing in front of an American flag

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wields the Speaker's gavel on Jan. 3. Photo: Erin Scott/pool/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats plan to reintroduce nine of their most-favored bills during the 117th Congress that began today, but how far the legislation gets will hinge on the outcome of the Georgia Senate races later this week.

Why it matters: Today was filled with pomp and circumstance, including Nancy Pelosi winning another term as House speaker after some recently COVID-positive members came into the chamber to vote in her favor. But whether Republicans maintain the Senate or Democrats win a narrow majority will determine if she and President-elect Joe Biden can enact their agendas.

What we're hearing: House Democrats soon plan to reintroduce nine key bills that died on the Hill under the Trump administration — H.R. 1 through H.R. 9, Democratic leadership sources tell me.

  • One of the first will be the For the People Act (H.R. 1) — a sweeping anti-corruption package that was a hallmark of the 2018 midterms.
  • They also hope to tackle the next eight bills, including legislation that would expand the Affordable Care Act, lower the cost of prescription drug prices, enhance background checks on firearms, and passing the Equality Act.

In the Senate, if Republicans keep their majority, they're ready to flex their oversight powers. They plan to grill Biden's pending Cabinet nominees and their agencies — something many GOP lawmakers consider payback after a grueling four years scrutinizing Trump.

  • "Personnel is policy," a Senate leadership aide tells me. "These nominations are not gonna be boring, and when they come up for their semi-annual hearings, it's not gonna be fun."
  • The aide added that they expect House Democrats will continue sending bills to the Senate that Republicans consider "explicit nonstarters," noting the Hyde abortion amendment as a key example.

Another priority for House Democrats is drafting a new coronavirus relief package to address what they see as the shortfalls in the recently passed stimulus bill. Their biggest priority is increased aid for state and local governments.

  • They also plan to work closely with Biden on a bipartisan infrastructure deal. As Axios recently reported, the president-elect views it as one of the few big pieces of legislation he can realistically achieve within a divided government. His team hopes to strike a deal during the first year of his term.

Each of these targets has been discussed during weekly policy coordination calls between the Biden transition and top House and Senate offices, congressional sources involved in the talks tell me.

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