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Legislative Priorities for the New Congress, Part I: Elections & Voting, the Environment, Immigration, Gun Control

US Renew News Op Ed | By: Various | December 12, 2022

Header photo taken from: Erin Scott-Pool / Getty Images

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Democrats held their majority in the Senate, defying history and expectations to retain power in the upper chamber and delivering a significant win for President Joe Biden while the House of Representatives remained in Republian control, however a fry cry from the expected Red Wave envisioned by Republicans and a reminder of how deeply divided congress and constituents are on issues and legislation.

Photo taken from: Barrons (.com)

The US Mid-Term Elections resulted in a near political stalemate. Democrats will continue their control of the Senate. Republicans will have a slim majority in the House. Many observers think it will be next to impossible to get anything done in this environment. On the other hand, there seem to be a sprinkling of Congresspersons on both sides willing to cross over on specific issues. Therefore  we are hopeful that the next session of Congress, as well as the current lame-duck session, will result in some meaningful legislation

We believe that the following issues are low-hanging fruit for the new Congress (or the states), to pass new legislation. These issues either already  have some support from both parties, or have the political urgency needed to  encourage legislators to cross  political lanes and work on bills that address them. The following OP Ed, posted in 2 parts over the next few days, identifies these issues and describes the kinds of laws that legislators need to focus on and get passed.

Elections and Voting


The Electoral College has steadfastly withstood fierce opposition: over 700 proposals have been introduced in Congress to abolish or reform the Electoral College, a compact of states was formed to bypass it, and recent polls show that more than half of Americans oppose it.

Photo taken from: Getty Images

While there is widespread need to reform our election system (e.g. do away with the electoral college) lack of bipartisan support for most reforms dims their chances of passage. However it seems likely that there is enough bipartisan support for  congress to pass the Electoral Count Act (ECA). The Act is being put in place to avoid what happened in 2020 when right wing political operatives organized slates of false electors to challenge the election results in different states.  

The ECA defines the process when Congress meets every four years in the first week in January to count the electoral votes for president and vice president. This meeting is mandated by the Constitution, which requires that all electoral votes be sent to Congress and counted in front of the House and Senate. This count is normally a formality, but the ECA includes a caveat with potentially enormous consequences. Congress can reject an electoral vote, the law says, if a majority of both the House and Senate finds that an elector’s appointment was not “lawfully certified” or that the elector’s vote was not “regularly given.”

The Environment


A group of young protesters march through the streets of New York City to demand action on the global climate crisis.

Photo taken from: Getty / Spencer Platt

The major challenge with regards to environmental policy has to do with  implementation of the climate legislation portion of the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress passed and President Biden signed over last Summer. The Inflation Reduction Act puts about $370 billion into combating climate change and bolsters U.S. energy production, using incentives for private companies to produce more renewable energy and for households to transform their energy use and consumption.

On paper the act is an extremely important step forward in the US effort to combat climate change and honor its commitment to the Paris Agreement. However, it will be up to the administration as well as Congressional oversight to ensure that the  new climate bill is fully implemented.

Other important environmental issues that Congress needs to address are the continued drought in Western states, ongoing threats to endangered species,  and the continued efforts to drill for oil, gas and precious metals in different parts of the country.

Immigration


Immigrant advocates including Hispanics demonstrate outside a federal detention center in Los Angeles.

Photo taken from: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Both Democrats and Republicans have expressed in interest in different aspects of immigration reform, and it looks like a bill might get passed in the current lame duck session. Its focus is a path to citizenship for dreamers (favored by many Dems) and provisions for tighter border security (favored by many Republicans).

The Biden administration also has issued a proposed bill called the U.S. Citizenship Act. The Act calls for providing pathways to citizenship and strengthening labor protections for immigrants; prioritizing smart border controls; and addressing the root causes of migration, such as instability in Mexico and other Central American neighbors. The bill is not perfect and could be strengthened. Perhaps the new Congress, which so far has ignored it, could summon the political will to pass it.

Gun Control


Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the lead Democratic negotiator on a bipartisan gun bill safety bill, speaks to activists protesting gun violence and demanding action from lawmakers near the U.S. Capitol.

Photo taken from: Nicholas Kamm / AFP via Getty Images

Last Summer Congress approved the Gun Safety Act that includes

incentives for states to pass so-called red flag laws that allow groups to petition courts to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. The bill also expands an existing law that prevents people convicted of domestic abuse from owning a gun to include dating partners rather than just spouses and former spouses; and expands background checks on people between the ages of 18 and 21 seeking to buy a gun.

Yet the Gun Safety Act is just a baby step forward in putting in place the legislation needed to curb America’s gun violence epidemic. Given the continued prevalence of mass shootings it seems there should be at least a few Republican Senators and Representatives willing to take the next steps in gun control legislation, such as banning AK 15s and other weapons of mass destruction, and outlawing the production of so-called ghost guns.

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