The Biden government’s next major legislative initiative – a “rebuild better” bill that deals with infrastructure and more – is at least a few weeks away, and Democrats are pondering what to do in the meantime. I have a suggestion: before entering into another divisive debate, focus on laws that have significant support across party lines.
Skeptics will say that I have described a null set, but they are wrong. While the Trump administration’s last two years have not been noteworthy for legislative achievements, bipartisan work behind the scenes has continued and laid the groundwork for progress this year. Here are four examples:
• China. There is a growing consensus on the challenge Beijing poses to American interests. The Endless Frontier Act, sponsored jointly by two parties in the House and Senate, including the Senate majority leader, is an obvious starting point. The bill focuses on areas of science and technology that will be essential to our economy and defense in the decades to come, and expands the mission of the National Science Foundation. Indiana’s Todd Young, the Senate’s leading Republican sponsor of the bill, told me in an interview that “we make strategic bets without an apology”. He hopes for committee premiums and deliberations before the end of April. Moving that bill to the finish line should be a top priority.
• Immigration. Everyone knows the status quo is out of date and no longer workable, but Congress has fought for nearly two decades to fix it. In January, the Biden government tabled a comprehensive reform bill, but the president acknowledged that it will not move forward anytime soon. In the meantime, however, a few pieces can be addressed.
The first bill for the “dreamers” was proposed 20 years ago. Despite the widespread bipartisan agreement that young people brought to the United States as minors deserve legal status if they meet certain criteria, nothing has happened.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) And Lindsey Graham (R., SC) recently reintroduced a bill to pave the way to legal permanent residence for post-secondary dreamers, who work or serve for at least three years supposed to be in the military. They would also need to pass background exams, pay a fee, and have a high school diploma, knowledge of English and U.S. history, and a clean criminal record.
According to the impartial institute for migration policyAlmost three million young people meet the age qualifications for this program, and many have already met the remaining standards. Can the House and Senate stop leveraging the dreamers and get this bill passed?
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• broadband. The pandemic has driven home the reality that high-speed internet access is the stream of the 21st century. Without broadband, rural businesses will find it difficult to thrive and patients will find it difficult to take advantage of telemedicine. In some urban areas, students have chosen to enroll in remote classes from
Several bipartisan laws have been introduced since January to extend broadband access to unserved communities. These efforts will be similar to electrification in the 1930s and are easy to fund. In February, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it had raised more than $ 81 billion from its recent auction of publicly owned spectrum to large companies developing 5G networks. This is roughly what it would cost to achieve a universal broadband network and it would be the most appropriate and productive use of auction funds.
• Prescription drug prices. Americans have complained about rising costs. The Senate Finance Committee held extensive hearings on the matter, and the previous Congress reached bipartisan agreement on the 2019 Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act. Among other things, the bill would oblige manufacturers to offer substantial discounts on drugs whose prices are rising faster than inflation.
The Budget Office of Congress found The bill would save taxpayers $ 95 billion over the next decade, cut out-of-pocket costs by $ 72 billion, and cut Medicare premiums by $ 1 billion. For reasons that had more to do with the politics of the election year than with the substance, the 2020 draft law could not be implemented. It is time to revive it, make the changes the committee deems necessary and add it to the legislative calendar. No doubt the pharmaceutical companies will continue to object, as will the left, who prefer a more aggressive approach.
Senator Young says that after partisan divisions about the American rescue plan, “it stands to reason that the Biden administration would look for something that would bring us together.” Indeed. Partisans in the House and Senate have sent for most of the past decade to debate their many disagreements, and the results speak for themselves. It would be refreshing if they spent a month or two each year focusing on where they agree.
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