Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold?

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' Meghan McCain: Greene 'behaving like an animal' GOP Rep. Turner to lead House push to address military sexual assault MORE (D-Calif.) and House Democrats will enter the next Congress with a slighter majority — and less cushion to absorb defections — as they eye an ambitious legislative agenda featuring a host of hot-button issues, from climate change to immigration.

Republicans have already flipped 11 seats this cycle, netting eight with several more expected, according to a tally by The New York Times. That leaves Democrats facing the prospect of controlling just 222 seats in the lower chamber next year — the smallest House majority in decades — and GOP leaders are practically salivating at the chance to block the Democrats' legislative wish list just as President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected BuzzFeed News finds Biden's private Venmo account Kid reporter who interviewed Obama dies at 23 MORE steps into the White House.

“In this next Congress, we might not be able to schedule the floor, but we are going to run the floor,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney: McCarthy should 'absolutely' testify before Jan. 6 commission Gohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' Axios reporter Kadia Goba rejoining BuzzFeed News to cover GOP MORE (R-Calif.) said last week.

Yet an examination of the votes surrounding the Democrats' top policy priorities in the current Congress reveals that Republicans have their work cut out if they hope to sink that agenda in the next. Indeed, of the nine highest-profile bills passed by Democrats — but not taken up by the Senate — over the past two years, seven won unanimous Democratic support, despite the differences in the caucus between the liberal and moderate wings, while the others saw just two defectors apiece.

Democrats, to be sure, will face a different political environment in the 117th Congress, one presenting new challenges for party leaders. Liberals, following Biden's win, will be clamoring to shift legislation to the left, while vulnerable moderates may face more pressure to oppose some of the more controversial bills heading into a tough midterm cycle in 2022.

Still, the proposals Democrats tackled this year have broad public support, and party leaders are already vowing to return to those bills next year. If they can rally the same support they enjoyed this Congress, passage is assured, despite their diminished numbers.

"Much of what bills we passed I think we'll look at them again," House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerWhat's a party caucus chair worth? House fails to pass drug bill amid Jan. 6 tensions Cheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP MORE (D-Md.) told reporters heading into the elections. "Because ... it's not as if they were defeated in the Senate. They were just ignored in the Senate."  

Here's a closer look at the Democrats' top nine proposals from the 116th Congress, with an eye on their prospects in the 117th.

H.R. 1: Draining the swamp

Democrats had seized the House in 2018 largely on a promise to clean up Washington, and the first bill out the door aimed to do just that. Sponsored by Rep. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesEfforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress Former Md. senator Paul Sarbanes dies at 87 Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE (D-Md.), the package featured dozens of proposals designed to limit the influence of money in politics, knock down barriers to voting and adopt tougher ethics rules for Washington policymakers.

Pelosi has said similar legislation will be the first to see action in the House next year, and she should have little trouble approving it.

The lower chamber passed the proposal in March 2019 by a vote of 234-193. No Democrat voted against it, including Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.), who has since jumped parties to join the Republicans.

H.R. 2: Infrastructure surge

Democrats had also run their 2018 campaign on vows to move an enormous infrastructure bill providing trillions of dollars for roads, airports and a shift from fossil fuels to green energy. Initially, they thought President TrumpDonald TrumpVirginia GOP gubernatorial nominee acknowledges Biden was 'legitimately' elected Biden meets with DACA recipients on immigration reform Overnight Health Care: States begin lifting mask mandates after new CDC guidance | Walmart, Trader Joe's will no longer require customers to wear masks | CDC finds Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 94 percent effective in health workers MORE was an ally in the effort, but months of negotiations ultimately broke down, forcing Democrats to move a partisan bill through the House as a symbol of what they might enact under a President Biden, who is promising quick action on such a package next year.

Again, Pelosi should find little resistance. When the bill, sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioHillicon Valley: Global cybersecurity leaders say they feel unprepared for attack | Senate Commerce Committee advances Biden's FTC nominee Lina Khan | Senate panel approves bill that would invest billions in tech Top Democrat: FCC actions are a 'potential setback' to autonomous vehicles Biden's infrastructure plan builds a stronger foundation for seniors MORE (D-Ore.), hit the floor over the summer, it passed 233-188.

There were two defections from Democratic moderates, Reps. Collin PetersonCollin Clark Peterson Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Six ways to visualize a divided America On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 MORE (Minn.) and Ben McAdams (Utah), both of whom lost their races this month and won't be returning in the next Congress. Three Republicans crossed the aisle to support the legislation: Reps. Chris SmithChristopher (Chris) Henry SmithThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Facebook — Biden delivers 100 million shots in 58 days, doses to neighbors The eight Republicans who voted to tighten background checks on guns House approves bills tightening background checks on guns MORE (N.J.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickBipartisan Senate bill introduced to give gyms B in relief America's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Biden visits local Mexican restaurant to highlight relief program MORE (Pa.) and Van Drew, all of whom will be back in Washington next year.

H.R. 3: Drug costs

The third and final central promise from Democrats to voters in 2018 was legislation to lower prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to use its bulk-buying powers to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies — a process Republicans explicitly barred in the 2003 law creating Medicare's drug program.

That promise was back on the table this campaign season, and Democratic leaders are vowing to move quickly to send it to the Senate next year. Their smaller majority appears to be no impediment to that goal.

The bill, sponsored by the late Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Health Care: AstraZeneca may have included outdated data on vaccine trial, officials say | Pelosi says drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package | Biden administration extends special ObamaCare enrollment until August Pelosi: Drug pricing measure under discussion for infrastructure package Bottom line MORE (D-Md.), passed the House in December by a vote of 230-192. No Democrats opposed the legislation, and two Republicans backed the measure: Reps. Fitzpatrick and Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Uninvited Trump is specter at GOP retreat McCarthy defends Trump response to deadly Jan. 6 riot MORE (Wash.), both of whom will be back on Capitol Hill next year. Van Drew, then a Democrat, also supported the bill.

H.R. 4: Voting rights


Democrats howled in 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act, eliminating a provision that had required states with proven records of voter discrimination to win federal approval before altering their election procedures. Sponsored by Rep. Terri SewellTerrycina (Terri) Andrea SewellAlabama museum unveils restored Greyhound bus for Freedom Rides' 60th anniversary Rep. Terri Sewell declines to run for Senate in Alabama Amazon union battle comes to Washington MORE (D-Ala.), H.R. 4 aimed to reinstate those preclearance protections by updating the formula that had determined which states were subject to the extra scrutiny.

Championed by the late Rep. John LewisJohn LewisManchin breaking with Democrats on voting rights Sweeping election reform bill faces Senate buzz saw Abrams issues sharp rebuke to Arizona GOP governor for signing 'devastating anti-voter bill' MORE (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon who died in July, the bill sailed through the House in December by a vote of 228-187, with no Democrat opposing it, including Van Drew. Fitzpatrick was the lone Republican to support the measure.

H.R. 5: Gay rights

Democrats were emboldened by the Supreme Court's 2015 decision solidifying the right of gay couples to marry. But in their eyes, it didn't go far enough, and H.R. 5 was their remedy: a sweeping proposal to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity across vast sectors of U.S. culture, including the workplace, educational institutions and the banking industry.

Sponsored by Rep. David CicillineDavid CicillineDemocrat moves to censure three Republicans for downplaying Jan. 6 Democrats reintroduce legislation to ban 'ghost guns' Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld MORE (R.I.), a gay lawmaker who heads the Democrats' messaging arm, the bill passed easily in May 2019. The vote was 239-173, with every voting Democrat supporting the measure, including Van Drew. They were joined by eight Republicans, five of whom are returning next year.


H.R. 6: The "Dreamers"

Among their final lame-duck votes after losing the House majority in the 2010 elections, Democrats passed the DREAM Act, which would have provided certain legal protections for qualified undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

The measure was controversial at the time: 38 Democrats voted against it. A decade later, the legislation has evolved to cover more people — and the controversy among Democrats has all but vanished.

Sponsored by Rep. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardTop border officials defend Biden policies House passes bills providing citizenship path for Dreamers, farmworkers Lawmakers call for action on first anniversary of Breonna Taylor's death MORE (D-Calif.), the bill hit the floor in June 2019 and flew through the chamber on a vote of 237-187, with all Democrats supporting it, including Van Drew. Seven Republicans crossed the aisle in favor of the measure; six of them will be on Capitol Hill again next year.

H.R. 7: Paycheck fairness


As part of their economic agenda, Democrats have sought to bridge the stubborn chasm in wages between men and women with legislation promoted under the slogan "equal pay for equal work."

Central to the effort is a proposal sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa DeLauroHouse Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection Capitol Police watchdog back in spotlight amid security concerns Battle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers MORE (D-Conn.) — the Paycheck Fairness Act — that would discourage pay discrimination by empowering workers to share more wage information and providing women with more tools to challenge gender-based wage discrepancies.

The idea, among Democrats, is hardly controversial. DeLauro's bill was among the first to be considered this cycle, in March of last year, and passed with a vote of 242-187. No Democrat opposed it, and Van Drew was among the supporters. In addition, seven Republicans backed the measure, six of them returning in the next Congress.

H.R. 8: Gun reform

Once considered a third rail of politics, particularly for Democrats, gun reform has gained widespread support in public opinion polls, fueled by a long string of high-profile shootings that have struck schools, churches, malls, concerts and military bases across the country in recent years.

The Democrats have numerous bills designed to stem the violence, but their base proposal would expand background checks surrounding gun purchase to a broader swath of sellers — licensed and unlicensed — in an effort to block sales to felons and other prohibited buyers.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike ThompsonCharles (Mike) Michael ThompsonGiffords group unveils gun violence memorial on National Mall Democrats urge Biden to take executive action on assault-style firearms Democrats have a growing tax problem with SALT MORE (D-Calif.), hit the floor in February 2019, passing 240-190. Two Democrats voted no: Peterson, who is not returning to Washington, and Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), who won reelection. Eight Republicans also backed the bill.

H.R. 9: Climate Change

Among the top priorities of both congressional Democrats and the Biden team is sweeping legislation to tackle climate change, largely with an effort to cut greenhouse emissions through a shift to green energies.

Republicans have largely opposed such changes, warning that a slew of new environmental regulations would harm businesses large and small. Yet the idea has been embraced by Democrats of all stripes who point to public opinion polls in favor of some federal action to curb warming amid intensifying hurricanes in the South and wildfires in the West.

Sponsored by Rep. Kathy CastorKatherine (Kathy) Anne CastorHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech Markey, Castor urge FTC to investigate Google Play Store Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' MORE (D-Fla.), the Democrats' climate bill passed the House easily in May 2019, winning a vote of 231-190, with no Democratic opposition. Van Drew was among the Democrats to support the measure, and three GOP lawmakers also voted in favor: Fitzpatrick, Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikAll House Republicans back effort to force floor vote on 'born alive' bill House Democrats unveil .9 billion bill to boost security after insurrection The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - What the CDC's updated mask guidance means MORE (N.Y.) and Rep. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (Fla.).