President Donald Trump’s messaging strategy depends on repeating statements so often they’re accepted as fact. A prime example is his constant contention that, since House Democrats regained their majority, they mainly want to investigate him, rather than legislate.
“Nervous Nancy (Pelosi) & Dems are getting zero work done in Congress and have no intention of doing anything other than going on a fishing expedition to see if they can find anything on me,” Trump tweeted last week.
Six House committees are probing various aspects of Trump’s personal and policy record. But that’s hardly all House Democrats are doing. Since January, they’ve passed a broad array of measures, attempting to fulfill their campaign promises on health care, guns, equal rights, election reform and climate change.
But their legislative actions have been obscured by the news focus on the president’s possible impeachment and such dramatic moves as threatened trade wars with China and Mexico. Besides, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed the Republican-controlled Senate won’t even consider House-passed measures.
“Think of me as the Grim Reaper,” the Kentucky Republican told his constituents in April. “None of that stuff is going to pass.”
The Democratic legislative agenda, likely to provide a policy basis for the party’s 2020 campaign, provides a sharp contrast with Trump. The president has virtually no legislative agenda, aside from seeking approval of his new trade treaty with Canada and Mexico and financing the government. Talk about repairing the nation’s aging and decaying infrastructure has been just that: talk.
Here are some measures the House passed in the first five months of the Democratic majority:
The House passed two major heath bills. One packaged proposals aimed at lowering prescription drug prices, an issue Trump often touts, with several measures designed to stop administration actions undercutting the Affordable Care Act. A separate measure seeks to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Its first major bill would create a new national system of automatic voter registration (from which unwilling voters could opt out). The bill would establish public financing of congressional campaigns with the federal government matching $200 private contributions on a 6-for-1 basis; require nonpartisan congressional redistricting; enhance election security; require the president and vice president to disclose 10 years of tax returns and extend ethics rules to the Supreme Court; and pledge restoration of Supreme Court rejected provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In what would be a major expansion of federal civil rights guarantees, the House passed the so-called Equality Act, which would extend federal protections against discrimination in housing, the workplace and public accommodations to LGBTQ people.
Violence against women
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The House voted to extend the 1994 Violence against Women Act, designed to prevent spousal abuse against women, despite the opposition from the National Rifle Association to a new provision that bars those convicted of abusing or stalking dating partners from owning firearms.
Legal status for Dreamers
This legislation would create a path to citizenship for more than 2 million illegal immigrants, including the so-called “dreamers” brought here by their parents when they were children and protected by President Barack Obama’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). It would also affect the 300,000 from Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras given TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and a smaller number form Liberia under the Bush-era DED (Deferred Enforced Departure) program.
The House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to facilitate legal action against unequal pay for men and women and require employers to show that pay differences are based on legitimate factors.
Universal background checks
The bill would extend the current requirement that licensed gun dealers run background checks on potential buyers to include private sellers, who sell firearms at unlicensed shops, over the internet or at gun shows.
The SECURE (Setting Every Community UP for Retirement Enhancement) Act contains a number of provisions designed to help more people save for retirement. It would help small businesses band together in offering retirement plans, make possible inclusion in retirement plans of long-time part-time employees and raise from 70-and-a-half to 72 the age at which Americans are required to start withdrawing retirement account funds.
Bypassing for now more sweeping and more controversial measures like the Green New Deal, the House passed a more modest bill that would force Trump to keep the United States in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
House Republicans opposed most of these bills, though a handful of GOP members voted for some. For example, seven Republicans voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, eight for universal background checks, and the retirement expansion measure passed 417-3.
If the Senate were permitted to vote, there would likely be some bipartisan support for many of these measures, or at least for amended versions. But that’s not going to happen as long as McConnell backs Trump by erecting a solid wall against them.
Clearly, GOP leaders feel that preventing Democratic political success is a higher priority than seeking to alleviate some festering national problems. But getting voters to notice will be a challenge for the Democrats.