Congress proved productive as Democrats sailed with a narrow majority

Funding infrastructure in all 50 states. Billions for semiconductors made in the United States. Aid for American veterans exposed to burns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Aid to Ukrainian forces fighting a Russian invasion.

And of course, there’s what Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) has called the “crown jewel” of the legislation: the sprawling Energy Reduction Act. inflation aimed at lowering prescription drug costs, tackling climate change, raising taxes on some billionaire corporations, and reducing the federal deficit.

The two years of Congress — which some political observers say could be stalled by wafer-thin majorities in both chambers and heightened polarization nationally — have been, according to Democrats, one of the most productive of the recent history with the passage of several bipartisan bills, such as the infrastructure measure and important Democratic-only legislation with far-reaching impact for millions of Americans.

President Biden called the infrastructure legislation “monumental”. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) called the money to subsidize domestic semiconductor manufacturing”deep.” And on Friday, shortly before the House was to pass a short-term spending bill to keep the government going, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) told reporters: ” We watch this session with great pride” as Democrats managed to deliver on many but not all of Biden’s agenda items.

“We put people above politics,” she said, describing the achievements in a campaign-style slogan: “People more than politics.”

Republicans call the Democratic record “reckless” and “partisan” spending, contributing to record inflation while failing to address issues such as the influx of migrants at the border or crime in cities across the country.

“Riding inflation isn’t the only crisis keeping American families up at night,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said this week. “Over the past two years, law and order has deteriorated in our country. Public safety has eroded. Violent crimes like murders and carjackings are breaking records. And our southern border has turned into a turnstile. … It’s a national phenomenon under the watch of the Democrats.

The flurry of laws passed by the House, where the Democrats’ advantage has been a handful of votes, and the Senate, 50-50 with Vice President Harris often the deciding vote, comes after the relative legislative inactivity of the 116th Congress divided, which met from January 2019 to January 2021 – the last two years of Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House.

According to a Pew Research Center report, the 116th was “one of the least legislatively productive Congresses of the past five decades. Of the 24 congresses we analyzed, only four passed fewer laws than the 116th, including three in the past decade.

Pew’s analysis found that only about two-thirds of the laws enacted were substantive – “meaning they changed written law, spent money or established policy, no matter how minor” – while nearly a third were ceremonial, such as renaming a post office.

As for the analysis of the 117th Congress, Pew was expected to crunch the numbers after a lame session following the midterm elections.

In his last weekly press conference in Washington before the midterms, as lawmakers headed for exits, Pelosi sought to contrast whatever legislation Democrats may have passed and had Biden sign against what Republican leaders Congressmen said they would if they won majority control in November.

“It’s an election about contrast: a national ban on abortion, respect for freedom of choice for families. Again kitchen table issues like prescription drugs, reducing the cost of prescription drugs,” she said. “Republicans want to reverse that. The list is lengthened increasingly.”

Republicans have pointed to many of these same laws that Democrats have enacted as the reason Americans face higher supermarket prices, smaller paychecks, higher interest and mortgage rates. high and a falling stock market.

A “massive spending spree” has led to the highest inflation in 40 years, according to a video released Friday by Senate Republicans. The video says development, along with growing crime and large numbers of migrants entering the country on the southern border, “is Biden’s legacy in just two years.”

Unable to pass the individual spending bills, Congress was forced to pass the short-term bill to keep government open until December 16, giving negotiators more time.

Public opinion polls show Republicans are slightly favored to win enough seats to take control of the House, according to the data site five thirty eight. Democrats are slightly favored to keep control of the Senate, depending on the website.

In the Senate, Schumer navigated a wafer-thin majority with a penchant for making deals, sometimes with surprising or mixed results.

In June, after a fatal shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a bipartisan group of senators passed modest gun restrictions with $15 billion in funding for mental health and school safety. The legislation was a breakthrough on an emotional and polarizing issue that Congress had largely left untouched for more than 25 years.

In July, another deal was announced. Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.) — who for months had resisted backing Biden’s sweeping climate and inflation legislation, announced he had reached a deal with Schumer to do just that. Manchin would support the Cut Inflation Act in exchange for Schumer passing new legislation relaxing federal licensing rules for pipelines and other infrastructure.

Manchin provided his much-needed vote and Biden signed the legislation in August. But when Schumer this week attached Manchin’s clearance review to a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, bipartisan opposition mounted. Manchin eventually called for it to be withdrawn, and the spending bill passed.

In the House, legislative activity was determined by Pelosi and his unique ability to secure votes among its members.

Passing the Cut Inflation Act, Semiconductor Funding and four bills this month to fund small police departments and put in place accountability measures were seen as testimonial of Pelosi’s ability to hold his caucus together, despite ideological and generational fissures. The first female Speaker of the House, Pelosi has led Democrats for 19 years.

For close observers, the last session of Congress was very productive, but many rank-and-file members were unhappy with the way the legislation was crafted and brought to a vote.

For example: Legislation prohibiting members of Congress from owning and trading individual stocks did not make it to a House vote, despite broad support among members. A sponsor of the bill, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), blamed Pelosi, writing in a scathing statement Friday: “Our bipartisan reform coalition was then subjected to repeated delaying tactics, gestures of hand and at blatant instances of Lucy pulling the football.

Spanberger added, “This moment marks a failure of House leadership — and it’s yet another example of why I think the Democratic Party needs new leadership in the halls of Capitol Hill.”

Pelosi, who has openly opposed the ban in the past, told reporters on Friday that the delay was because “other members had ideas to improve the bill.” Referring to the committee leaders – who she essentially appoints and answers to him – Pelosi said: “I told them, whatever you members want to do, I fully support.”

It was the latest example of Pelosi’s push-and-pull leadership of the 200-plus-member caucus, which includes nationally recognized progressive figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) and more moderate members like Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) who have openly embraced some Republican economic policies as they seek to woo voters outside of major coastal cities.

Pelosi has regularly brushed off questions about whether she will continue to lead House Democrats if they do not retain control of the chamber. Pelosi, who has served in Congress since 1987, told reporters on Friday, “I’m strictly focused on winning the next election.”

But Democrats and many Republicans have said Pelosi is the only person capable of bringing that caucus together. Two of his Republican predecessors, John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and later Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), retired after their leaders were undermined by the House Freedom Caucus, the right-wing group booming Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has worked hard to show he can muster the votes in his caucus like Pelosi did in his.

“Name me when we didn’t get votes,” Hoyer told reporters this week before ticking off a list of laws. “We may not have gotten it on the day we wanted”, but “all these bills have passed”.

Marianna Sotomayor and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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