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Legislative Priorities For The New Congress, Part 2

US Renew News Op Ed | By: Various | December 15, 2022

Header photo taken from: iStock Photo

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A uniquely divided Congress has few historical precedents. It will be extremely difficult for Democrats to advance their legislative agenda. Republicans can use their majority power to block any bills passed by the Democratic Senate from even getting a vote on the House floor. Given their very narrow majority, House Republicans may have trouble advancing major legislation through the chamber.

Even if they are able to pass something, the bill would almost certainly fail in the Democratic Senate, so it seems likely House Republicans will focus most of their attention on investigations and executive oversight.

Regardless, this is not the time for blocking purposeful agenda and Americans need meaningful guidance and protection in these uncertain times.

Photo taken from: CNN

Foreign Policy


President Biden has frequently referred to the current state of global politics as an "inflection point" - a moment, he says, when people need to choose between democratic systems of government and dictatorships, or find the world forever changed.

Photo taken from: Reuters /Lintao Zhang / Pool

Although Congress is still largely supportive of Ukraine’s war against Russia, there are some Senator and Representatives who feel we have done enough and need to scale back. (And there also are a few crazy Republicans with pro-Russian sentiments).  

At US RENEW NEWS we feel it is time to explore the possibilities of a negotiated end to the conflict or, at a minimum a cease-fire. Too much blood has been spilled and both sides seem determined to keep fighting no matter what. Congress should support efforts to bring  together a conference of the parties and explore whether an agreement can be reached to bring an end to the fighting.

President Biden and Congress also need to speak out more forcefully in support of the wave of protests that seem to be engulfing many autocratic countries, such as China, Iran, and Russia. The President often notes that we are in the midst of a global battle between autocracies and democracies. This battle will only be won if citizens of autocratic countries advocate for democratic reforms. Declarations of support for the universal right to protest will encourage them to do so.

Technology


Under the Digital Services Act, social media, online markets, very large online platforms (VLOPs) and very large online search engines (VLOSEs) — platforms with over 45 million users in the European Union — must comply with the new rules that set out wide-reaching responsibilities and accountability, a model worthy of the U.S. looking into concenring furture internet regulations.

Photo taken from: PYMNTS

The seemingly all intrusive use of Internet and social media technology in our lives is one of the most overlooked areas of  US public policy. Congress has been reluctant to step in and regulate large technology companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft. The power and monopolistic wealth of these companies has grown unchallenged. They have abused our rights as citizens with their intrusion into our private lives,  and they threaten our democracy with their support of the spread of misinformation and hatred.

The European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DSM) offer a model for the US to emulate. These Acts aim to create a safer digital space where the fundamental rights of users are protected and  a level playing field for businesses is established.  

US based technology companies operating in Europe are subject to the provisions of the DSA and DSM and already several of them, e.g. Microsoft, have been fined for their violations of these Acts. There are rumors that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are looking into adopting components of the EU regulations to the US.

While regulating technology’s abuses of our right to  privacy seems possible, we still have a long way to go in regulating technology’s spread of misinformation, hatred and violence. As far as we know there have not been any efforts to date to introduce legislation that addresses this issue though there is a great need to do so.

Marriage and Reproductive Rights


The president signed legislation Congress passed last week ensuring federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. Biden emphasized bipartisan support for the legislation, passed by Congress last week while calling for more to be done, including a renewed push for a bill to prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Photo taken from: Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

 

The Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade earlier this year resulted in many state banning the 50 year old right to an abortion. This had led to a large-scale backlash against the court’s decision; a backlash that influenced the success that Democrats had in the recent mid-terms. 

Unfortunately the makeup of the new Congress will not enable it to pass a law to reverse the Court’s decision. Instead the efforts of pro-abortion supporters has switched to the States. In recent months several states—-e.g. Michigan, Colorado, Kentucky—— have passed laws enshrining a woman’s right to an abortion in their constitution. We expect more will do so in the coming months.

The Supreme Court also has expressed interest in curtailing LGBTQ rights, which has led Congress to just pass the Respect for Marriage Act. The Act  requires the government to recognize the validity of same-sex and interracial marriages in the United States, and  protect religious liberty. However it does not go so far as to require states to permit same-sex marriages, which is what has left some progressives disappointed. Instead, it  requires the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

The Economy


Democrats are under pressure to raise the federal debt limit before a likely loss of control in Congress next year to prevent a potential showdown with Republicans. The U.S. has almost a year until experts say the federal government will hit its borrowing limit, which gives Congress plenty of time to avert a default.

Photo taken from: Associated Press / Steven Senne

The economy should be front and center on the minds of most politicians. It usually is the issue most acutely on voters’ minds and on which many elections are won and lost. (The recent mid-term elections being an exception due to the importance of abortion rights as an issue, the prevalence of many hard-to-elect crazy Republican candidates, and the conflicting data on the status of the economy.)

In the short term-there are immediate economic policy decisions that law-makers need to make such as funding to keep the government in operation and extending the debt ceiling. While these issues often are an excuse for grandstanding by a few Senators and Representatives, they stand a good chance of passing as no one wants to be put in the position of shutting down the government or having the US default on its debt.

There are other more contentious economic issues that are likely to get a hearing by the new Congress but will probably not have enough support to result in the passage of new legislation. These include a tax on billionaires,  and right wing plans to reform of social security. Efforts to rein in inflation through the use of monetary and fiscal policy, with the White House and Federal Reserve taking the lead, will no doubt continue.

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