Reset on Capitol Hill: A look ahead at the 117th Congress

Published: Jan. 1, 2021 at 7:54 AM MST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - When the new Congress takes the oath of office on Sunday, everything resets. Old bills that never got a vote are tossed out, but the issues remain.

Lawmakers will be faced with the ongoing pandemic. What else could be on the agenda? We asked two former Hill staffers: Tommy Binion from the conservative Heritage Foundation and Laura Rodriguez from the liberal Center for American Progress.

“Economic relief across the board,” Rodriguez said, “[is] very much at the top of the list for Democrats.”

“I think the number-one issue on the Republican side of the aisle in Congress next year is going to be election integrity,” Binion said.

Both experts tell us passing legislation in a non-election year is typically easier.

Democrats will control the House, but they hold fewer seats than last session. There is one big unknown right now – the final makeup of the Senate.

When the new Senate is sworn, Republicans will have 50 seats. Democrats will have 46 seats, and the two independents caucus with the Democrats. There are two seats left that will be decided in a runoff election in Georgia on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

If Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are able to hold on to one or both seats, it will preserve checks and balances with the Democratic House and White House. That could mean gridlock.

“Unfortunately, we’re going to see that pretty early on and pretty often,” Rodriguez said.

“They’re going to have to choose some compromise,” Binion said. “They’re going to have to do things that are uncomfortable for them as partisans in order to get things done.”

If Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win the Georgia Senate seats, there will be a 50-50 tie. The new vice president would tip the scales in the Democrats’ favor in any tie-breaking vote.

Multimedia Journalist Natalie Grim contributed to this report.

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