The House of Representatives passed each of these in 2021.
The Senate reconvened on Monday for the start of the second session of the 117th Congress. Several significant bills that were passed in the House await its consideration.
In addition to confirming dozens of President Joe Biden's judicial and executive branch nominations last year, the Democratic majority in the Senate pushed through a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package and a $550 billion infrastructure investment package in 2021. But with 50 Senate Republicans eager to use the filibuster rule to obstruct action on Biden's legislative agenda, hundreds of pieces of other House-passed legislation are awaiting action in the Senate.
Here are 12 progressive priorities awaiting passage in the Senate:
The Build Back Better plan
Biden's $1.75 trillion climate and caregiving infrastructure proposal passed the House in November, including provisions that would invest billions in paid family leave, child care, health care, home care, clean energy, and efforts to combat climate change. But with Republicans unanimously opposed and conservative Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) unhappy with some provisions, the Senate has not yet passed its version. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to keep working on it "until we get something done," and negotiations are ongoing.
The House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in March on a mostly party-line vote. The legislation would prohibit chokeholds and reform "qualified immunity" protections for law enforcement officers. The bill has not been voted on in the Senate, where negotiations on a bipartisan compromise fell through in September.
Democracy and voting rights
Bills passed in the House to reform elections and protect the right to vote have been obstructed by Senate Republicans. Even a bipartisan Senate voting rights proposal stalled when just one Republican — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski — joined the Democrats in support of considering the bill. On Monday, Schumer promised that if the GOP minority does not "change course" he will force a vote on "changes to Senate rules" to circumvent the filibuster.
In April, the House voted to admit the residential neighborhoods of the District of Columbia into the union as the 51st state: Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. The proposal would give representation to the more than 670,000 Americans who currently reside in the nation's capital. Republicans have opposed this, with many citing a concern that the diverse and progressive population would elect Democrats. Some have suggested D.C. residents are too rich for statehood and should instead just move or join Maryland.
Gun background checks
Two bills to enhance background checks for gun purchasers passed the House in March. Despite polls showing 92% support for universal background checks, not a single Senate Republican has signed on. A 2013 vote on a compromise background check proposal — authored by Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey — failed after just four Republicans voted for it. Only two of those GOP yes votes, Toomey and Maine's Susan Collins, are still serving in the Senate today.
The House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act in March, making it easier for workers to unionize and to bargain collectively. Republicans opposed this effort, suggesting it would somehow hurt workers by taking away "their freedom." While 47 Senate Democrats have signed on to the proposal, not a single Republican has backed it.
The Equality Act, which the House passed in March, would extend existing federal civil rights protections to Americans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Claiming this would undermine the religious freedom of businesses to discriminate, Republicans have opposed its Senate passage.
Protections for pregnant workers
In May, the House passed the bipartisan Pregnant Worker's Fairness Act to prevent pregnant people from facing discrimination on the job. It passed 315 to 101, with nearly half of the House GOP caucus voting no. The Senate version of the bill has attracted five GOP co-sponsors, half the number of Republicans needed to bring the bill up for a vote.
Protections for older workers
The House voted in November to pass the Protecting Older Job Applicants Act, legislation to explicitly protect older Americans from discrimination when they apply for new jobs. Just seven House Republicans voted for these protections, while others suggested they would somehow hurt older job applicants.
Violence Against Women Act reauthorization
Since December 2018, Senate Republicans have blocked reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark 1994 legislation protecting victims of domestic abuse and violence. In March, the House passed a bill to reinstate the law, with 29 Republicans joining all Democrats. Last month, a bipartisan group of senators reportedly agreed on a framework for a compromise and plan to introduce it in January.
A pathway to citizenship for Dreamers
The House passed the American Dream and Promise Act in March, a widely popular proposal to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people brought to the United States as kids and others. Just nine House Republicans voted for the package. With strong GOP opposition in the Senate, Democrats also attempted to pass similar protections as part of the Build Back Better agenda, which could pass with a simple majority under reconciliation rules. The Senate parliamentarian has rejected those efforts so far.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House in April 2021, would protect workers from pay discrimination and work to reduce the pay gap between women and men. Democrats have tried to enact the bill in every Congress since 1997, but it has died each time as a result of wide GOP opposition. Senate Republicans blocked a vote on it in June along party lines.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.