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

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOklahoma man who videotaped himself with his feet on desk in Pelosi's office during Capitol riot released on bond House formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot With another caravan heading North, a closer look at our asylum law 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 BidenBudowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit DC might win US House vote if it tries Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models 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 spokesperson on Gaetz: 'In Wyoming, the men don't wear make-up' Biden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop House GOP leader says he has 'concerns' over Cheney's impeachment vote 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 HoyerBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing 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 TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency 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 DeFazioTackle injustice, tax Wall Street Southwest Airlines says it won't furlough workers after Trump signed relief bill Infrastructure? Not unless the House rethinks its offer MORE (D-Ore.), hit the floor over the summer, it passed 233-188.

There were two defections from Democratic moderates, Reps. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonOn The Trail: The political losers of 2020 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump admin to sell oil leases at Arctic wildlife refuge before Biden takes office |Trump administration approves controversial oil testing method in Gulf of Mexico | Rep. Scott wins House Agriculture Committee gavel Rep. David Scott wins House Agriculture Committee gavel 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 SmithDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Woman tased, arrested for trespassing for not wearing mask at Ohio football game China sanctioning Rubio, Cruz in retaliatory move over Hong Kong MORE (N.J.), Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickCalls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack Trump's assault on the federal government isn't over Growing number of GOP lawmakers say they support impeachment 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 CummingsHouse Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them We must act on lowering cost of prescription drugs 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 BeutlerUpton becomes first member of Congress to vote to impeach two presidents The Hill's Morning Report - Trump impeached again; now what? Kinzinger says he is 'in total peace' after impeachment vote 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 SewellDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Lobbying world Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election 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 LewisThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Harris now 'the most influential woman' in American politics Georgia Democrat introduces bill to bar Trump from Capitol after term ends 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 CicillineHouse formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot K Street navigates virtual inauguration week Washington state rep joins list of Republicans voting to impeach Trump 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-AllardOvernight Health Care: CDC panel recommends who gets vaccine first | McConnell offering new relief bill | Hahn downplays White House meeting on vaccines Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Democratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief 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 DeLauroDemocrats eye bill providing permanent benefits of at least K per child Jill Biden visits Capitol to thank National Guard Biden reverses Trump's freeze on .4 billion in funds 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 ThompsonDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? House Democrats unveil green tax package The Hill's Coronavirus Report: BIO's Michelle McMurry-Heath says 400 projects started in 16 weeks in biotech firms to fight virus, pandemic unemployment total tops 43 million 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 CastorBiden recommits US to Paris climate accord OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate majority offers Biden new avenues on Trump environmental rollbacks | Democrats eye action on range of climate bills | Biden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports Democrats eye action on range of climate bills 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 StefanikLincoln Project hits Stefanik in new ad over support for Trump Wyoming county votes to censure Liz Cheney for Trump impeachment vote Stefanik knocks Albany newspaper over 'childless' characterization MORE (N.Y.) and Rep. Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (Fla.).