Legislation stacks up in Senate after House approvals: Here are 6 bills awaiting action

WASHINGTON — In an evenly divided Senate, becoming a “legislative graveyard” seems to be hard to avoid, even at the insistence of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

“We are not going to be a legislative graveyard, very simply,” Schumer told reporters in March, three months into the Democrats’ Senate majority. “People are going to be forced to vote on them. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ on a whole lot of very important and serious issues.”

For years the Senate was considered just that, a place bills went to die, while Republicans had the majority. Then- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was labeled the “grim reaper,” a name earned by refusing to bring Democratic-led legislation to the chamber floor for a vote.

While Schumer continues to bring bills to the floor, the 50/50 split and hard partisan lines have caused legislation to lack the 60 votes needed to avoid the filibuster and bring a vote on legislation, leaving some bills to die in the Senate.

The Democrats’ recent attempt to pass the For the People Act – a sweeping voting rights bill that would protect voter’s rights and increase election security – is a high-profile example of legislation that Senate Democrats were unable to pass in the six months since gaining the majority.

However, Schumer is undeterred. The New York senator has promised to bring several more pieces of legislation to the Senate floor. Here are six of the bills awaiting action there:

The Equality Act

One of the pieces of legislation awaiting the Senate is the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. This bill would be only the second passed by Congress to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination.

The legislation expands protections of existing federal civil rights laws to members of the LGBTQ community and protects the LGBTQ community from discrimination in housing, public spaces and employment benefits, especially as an increasing number of states are passing laws restricting LGBTQ rights.

The House passed the Equality Act in February on a mainly party-line vote, however, three Republicans voted with all Democrats to pass the legislation. On the same day, Schumer declared his support of the legislation and announced that he will bring it to the Senate floor.

“I will use my power as majority leader to put it on the floor and let’s see where everybody stands,” Schumer said. “Let’s see where everybody stands.”

2002 war resolution

The House voted to repeal the 2002 war resolution that allowed for the U.S. military’s invasion of Iraq. It’s a measure the House has previously approved that has been unable to pass the Senate.

Both the White House and the Senate’s Democratic leadership have voiced support for the bill, with Schumer vowing to bring it to the floor sometime this year.

“The Iraq War has been over for nearly a decade. An authorization passed in 2002 is no longer necessary in 2021,” Schumer said, also emphasizing that the U.S. won’t “abandon our relationship with Iraq and its people.”  

The nearly two-decade-old resolution authorized then-President George W. Bush to use the U.S. military as “he determines to be necessary and appropriate” to defend U.S. national security against “the continuing threat posed by Iraq.”

The measure was also used by the Trump administration as legal justification when Iranian general Qassim Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike, which it called a “defensive action,” accusing Soleimani of plotting attacks on Americans.  

The measure passed the House 268-161,  49 Republicans voting with Democrats to repeal the war authorization.  

Washington, DC Admission Act (H.R. 51)

The Senate vowed to bring to the floor another House-passed piece of legislation – Washington, DC Admission Act, which would give Washington, D.C., statehood.

The new state — something residents have been pushing for decades — would be named Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who spent the final 17 years of his life in the city.  

If passed, D.C. residents would — for the first time — get voting representatives in Congress. The new state would get two senators and one representative in the House, based on its population. Currently, residents pay taxes and can vote in presidential elections, but have no vote in Congress.  

This is the second time a bill that would give D.C. statehood passed the House, the first being in 2020. However, the Republican-controlled Senate didn’t bring that to a vote during the last congressional session.

Schumer praised House Democrats’ efforts to give D.C. statehood on the Senate floor in April, calling it an “important step towards recognizing the full citizenship of more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia.”

“D.C. statehood is an idea whose time has come,” Schumer added.

Unlike the vote on the measure to repeal the 2002 war authorization, the vote on the Washington, DC Admission Act fell solely on partisan lines, 216-208.

The American Dream and Promise Act and Farm Workforce Modernization Act

The American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act are the two immigration-related bills that have passed the House, both mainly on partisan lines.

The American Dream and Promise Act would allow recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the ability to live and work in the U.S. The legislation passed 228-197, with nine Republicans voting in support of the bill.

This legislation comes as the future of the DACA program is uncertain, as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and eight other states challenge it, arguing that harm will come if the program remains in place.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would provide a pathway for legal status in the U.S for more than 1 million undocumented farmworkers, received more bipartisan support than the American Dream and Promise Act, with 30 Republicans voting with Democrats, passing the House with a vote of 247-174.

Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 (H.R. 8)

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, otherwise known as H.R. 8, is one of two House-passed bills that would create stricter gun sales regulations as gun violence rises in  the U.S.

The bill would expand the requirement of background checks to more firearms sales and transfers; federal law currently only requires background checks for licensed gun dealers. This would mandate private individuals and groups undergo background checks, which would close the “Gun Show Loophole.”

It would also be illegal for those not licensed as a firearm importer, manufacturer or dealer to trade or sell firearms. While the legislation would create stricter background check laws, it wouldn’t create a federal registry to review them.

Schumer has vowed to bring the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 to the Senate floor despite the lack of support for any gun reform from his Republican colleagues.

“For years, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell let the incredibly popular background checks legislation languish in the Senate without a vote. Now, with Democrats in the Majority, the Senate will finally have the opportunity to act on this critical issue,” Schumer said in a March statement. “When I bring commonsense gun safety legislation to the Senate floor, my Republicans colleagues should support it.”

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