Democratic-led Congress and President Joe Biden delivered on key promises in 2021 and 2022
With a narrow majority in the House and a 50-50 Senate, Democrats made significant progress on Biden’s agenda.
Democrats have racked up a large number of legislative accomplishments over the past two years.
From advancing the first gun reform legislation in decades, to funding new infrastructure projects, to protecting marginalized communities, Democrats passed dozens of pieces of major legislation. They did this in spite of their razor-thin majority in the House; a Senate divided 50-50 that required multiple tie-breaking votes from Vice President Kamala Harris; and GOP efforts to block any and all progress.
That unified Democratic control of Washington will come to an end on Jan. 3, when House Republicans will be sworn in to the narrow majority they won in the November midterm elections. Republicans say they will use that majority to block further legislative progress, force massive cuts to safety net programs, and launch investigations of President Joe Biden and into right-wing conspiracy theories that excite the GOP base.
Here’s a look back at the major legislative accomplishments of the Democratic-led Congress over the past two years.
March 11, 2021: $1.9 trillion to stimulate the economy and lower unemployment. The American Rescue Plan provided $1.9 trillion in stimulus spending for the U.S. in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rescue Plan funds have been used across the country to fund community projects and initiatives with the goal of stabilizing the economy. The plan also sent stimulus checks to thousands of households. Since Biden took office and enacted the plan soon after, the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.7% from 6.4% in Jan. 2021, and 10 million jobs have been added to the economy.
March 11, 2021: Helping schools reopen safely for in-person instruction. The American Rescue Plan also included $125 billion in funding to help public schools that were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic return to in-person instruction. The American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds paid for improved ventilation, new staff, more school nurses, and interventions for students hurt most by the closures. By 2022, virtually all public schools were fully reopened.
March 11, 2021: Tax credits and direct payments for children that reduced poverty. The American Rescue Plan expanded child tax credits through the end of 2021, benefitting 61 million children. Data showed that the one-year program cut child poverty by 30% and gave families direct payments that could be used for items like school supplies and groceries.
May 20, 2021: Combating hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans. In the face of surging hate crimes and violence targeting people of Asian American and Pacific Island descent during the coronavirus pandemic, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act created a Justice Department position dedicated to expediting investigations and provided grants for state-run reporting hotlines.
June 17, 2021: Making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act commemorated the end of slavery as a federally recognized holiday, the first new national holiday since Martin Luther King Day was made a federal holiday in 1983. Juneteenth celebrations began in 1865, after the Civil War, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued orders that made formerly enslaved people in Texas aware of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Nov. 15, 2021: Investing in nationwide infrastructure upgrades. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included $1.2 trillion in spending to build and repair infrastructure across the United States. Funds have been used in every state to repair and update roads and bridges; begin building a national network of electric vehicle charging stations; ensure safe delivery of drinking water; and employ thousands of union employees working on related construction projects. The law has also expanded broadband availability and funded an ongoing transition to green energy.
March 3, 2022: Protecting victims of sexual assault and harassment. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act guaranteed that victims of sexual predation have a right to have their claims heard in court. Additionally, the December 2022 Speak Out Act allows victims to speak publicly about sexual harassment even if an employment agreement otherwise requires nondisclosure.
March 15, 2022: Restoring the expired Violence Against Women Act. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act provided major funding for law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute violent crimes against women and girls. Under then-President Donald Trump, the law expired in early 2019, but was reauthorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 for seven more years. The new version also expanded protections for victims of assaults on Native American tribal lands and LGBTQ people.
April 6, 2022: Fixing the Postal Service. The Postal Service Reform Act helped bring financial stability to the struggling U.S. Postal Service and preserved six-day-a-week mail delivery across the nation. It requires greater transparency about service delays and ended costly rules that required the prefunding of health benefits for Postal Service retirees.
April 7, 2022: Confirming the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. The Democratic Senate majority led the confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the first Black woman ever to sit on the highest court in the country. Aside from Jackson, the Democratic-led Senate has confirmed judges at a faster clip than Republicans did in the first two years of Trump’s tenure. What’s more, the confirmed judges have been diverse, with more than 70% people of color and 75% women.
May 21, 2022: Aiding Ukraine’s fight against Russia. Congress has passed tens of billions of dollars in funding to help Ukraine beat back the Russian invasion. That aid could be cut off once Republicans take control of the House, as some GOP lawmakers are calling for an end to U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.
May 21, 2022: Helping alleviate the baby formula shortage. After the closure of one of the largest baby formula plants in the United States created a dangerous shortage, Congress passed two pieces of legislation to address the current shortage and help prevent future shortages down the line. The Formula Act suspended tariffs on the import of formula from abroad, allowing for more supplies to hit American shelves. The Access to Baby Formula Act reduced the amount of red tape complicating low-income families’ ability to obtain formula during shortages.
June 25, 2022: Passing the first gun reforms in nearly three decades. Following a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The law strengthened background checks, incentivized states to temporarily disarm people deemed a threat to themselves or others, and blocked the sale of guns to people convicted of domestic abuse. It was the first gun reform legislation passed since the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.
Aug. 9, 2022: Investing in U.S.-based semiconductor production and scientific research. The CHIPS and Science Act provided tax incentives and $52 billion in subsidies for American companies producing computer chips. Following the bill’s passage, tech companies announced billions of dollars in increased domestic spending on chip manufacturing and new plans from companies such as Micron to construct facilities to produce semiconductors, projected to create thousands of new jobs. The law also helped fund STEM grants to historically Black colleges and universities.
Aug. 10, 2022: Expanding benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. Over opposition from Senate Republicans, who tried to block the bill, Congress passed the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act. The law expanded medical benefits to the millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and other toxic chemicals while serving in the military.
Aug. 16, 2022: Largest investment in combating climate change. The Inflation Reduction Act invests $362 billion in fighting climate change, the most ever dedicated to the purpose in U.S. history. The law extends tax credits for solar power and electric vehicle purchases, and also funds projects to combat drought and increase air pollution monitoring.
Aug. 16, 2022: Expanding access to Obamacare. The Inflation Reduction Act included $64 billion to extend health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, for three years. It extended tax credits to help lower-income families pay their health insurance premiums, credits that had originally been part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan and have already allowed more than a million people to get coverage for $10 a month or less for two years.
Aug. 16, 2022: Capping prescription drug costs, including insulin. The Inflation Reduction Act sets a cap of $2,000 per year on out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries; requires the federal government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies on drug prices; and makes drug companies pay out rebates if the rate of price increases are higher than the rate of inflation. The law also caps the cost of insulin at $35 per month for most older Americans.
Aug. 16, 2022: Cracking down on wealthy tax cheats and closing corporate tax loopholes. The Inflation Reduction Act was entirely paid for by closing loopholes that allowed corporations to escape paying their fair share in taxes and empowered the Internal Revenue Service to ensure those making more than $400,000 a year are not underpaying the taxes they owe. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, in addition to fully covering the cost of the law’s health care, energy, and climate change investments, these changes will reduce the budget deficit by $238 billion over 10 years.
Dec. 13, 2022: Protecting same-sex and interracial marriages. The Respect for Marriage Act repealed the unconstitutional 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and mandates that the federal government and every state respect all legal same-sex and interracial marriages.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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