New Democrat Coalition Unveils Policy Priorities for First 100 Days of Congress

February 1, 2021 by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON — Members of the New Democrat Coalition showcased their legislative priorities for the first 100 days of the 117th Congressional session on Thursday, Jan. 28, in a meeting held virtually with members of the media. 

The most pressing issue discussed was the Coalition’s plan to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic by ramping up vaccine distribution, revitalizing federal data collection and supporting small businesses through coronavirus relief measures. Additionally, the members discussed utilizing infrastructure reform as a means of combating climate change, expanding health care options and revamping trade policy in a manner benefitting American workers, farmers, and businesses, among other policy priorities. 

The members underscored their efforts to cooperate with lawmakers from across the aisle as well as the Biden-Harris administration to ensure their relief measures find a tangible path through the legislature. 

“It’s not a comprehensive laundry list of things we hope to accomplish this Congress, nor is this a list of bumper sticker slogans,” NDC Chair Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., said during the meeting. 

The coalition’s priorities were broken down into four multifaceted pillars: equitable vaccine distribution to protect workers and employers while preparing for future health crises, modernizing infrastructure to sustain widely shared economic growth, protecting and expanding access to health care, and restoring the nation’s global leadership position. 

Each pillar encapsulates numerous legislative measures introduced by the caucus that have yet to be taken up for debate in the House of Representatives. While these bills intend to put an end to the country’s ongoing pandemic woes, they also aim to expand the child tax credit, enhance unemployment insurance, and invest in technology initiatives that spur job growth and innovation. 

“Small businesses are 99.7% of U.S. employer firms, and we need to make sure that we’re directing support to that 99.7%,” Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Penn., said during the meeting. “Both to keep people on the payroll and also to help our entrepreneurs to create new jobs and opportunities as well. Just today related to this, I introduced the RAMP Act, which is an act that helps support entrepreneurs as they’re looking to scale their businesses and as we evolve and innovate through the pandemic and out of the pandemic.” 

When lawmakers discuss their initiatives directed at “reopening the economy,” it is crucial that those conversations include measures like paid family leave, paid medical leave and paid parental leave, Houlahan said. Without them, lawmakers are missing their mark to “reimagine” what the nation’s direction should be once the pandemic subsides. 

Houlahan re-introduced the RAMP Act with Rep. Troy Balderson, R-Ohio, indicating the bill hopes to gain traction with Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate. The act would enhance commercialization services for federally funded research and development by expediting small business innovation research and small business technology transfer application processes, improving technical and business assistance and making small businesses eligible for fast-tracked U.S. Patent Office services 

The New Democrat Coalition sent a letter to House leadership and President Joe Biden outlining the caucus’ key priorities for economic recovery from the pandemic. The letter noted 11 proposed bills aimed at pandemic recovery, including the Health STATISTICS Act introduced by Reps. Peters and Lucy McBath, D-Ga.

The Health STATISTICS Act would attempt to standardize coronavirus data collection by streamlining reporting requirements, enforce coordination between federal and state agencies and amplify data collection infrastructure in harshly affected regions, according to a written statement from Peters’ office. The bill is also supported in the House by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn. 

Although the meeting pertained mostly to health care initiatives, economic relief and infrastructure reform, the caucus tied these issues closely with measures to combat global climate change. 

“Climate change is an existential threat,” Rep. Brad Schnieder, D-Ill., said during the meeting. “It’s a threat to our health, our national security… and the longer we wait to act the more dramatic, the economic and social costs of climate change will become.” 

Schnieder continued, “Our nation has to deploy clean energy, climate resilience, efficiency and net-zero tools and technologies. And when tackling climate change, it is crucial that the United States pursues long term, durable solutions that are pro-climate market based and community-oriented.” 

Accomplishing these goals entails reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, Schnieder said. Congress must find a way to leverage decarbonization technologies in an economically-friendly fashion to sustain both the country’s long-term prosperity and sustainability. 

The first 100 days of the 117th Congress also present an opportunity for Democrats to act on immigration reform. The New Democrat Coalition intends to refocus U.S. immigration policy towards equitable solutions that demonstrate compassionate leadership. 

“If you think about the remarkable history of the United States, it has built the most dynamic economy in the world, as well as the US global leadership of creating a safer world in those 75 years post-World War II,” NDC Vice Chairman Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., said during the event. “What we saw on the four years of the Trump administration was a degradation of that leadership and a retreat from the world, and we’ve seen our standing in the world drop.” 

Although a major tenet of the coalition’s guiding principles, none of the 11 proposed acts mentioned in the caucus’ letter directly pertain to immigration reform. Rather, the coalition intends to field recommendations from Democratic and Hispanic coalitions in order to reexamine immigration priorities at a later date. 

The New Democrat Coalition intends to present these revised initiatives either through future legislative efforts or by recommending executive action for the Biden-Harris administration, Bera said. The coalition’s plan for restoring faith in the U.S.’s global leadership starts and ends with underscoring the nation’s humanitarian priorities. 

“We also look forward to working with the diverse coalition within the Democratic Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and others to work on those immigration issues that really are at the fabric and the values of who we are as the United States,” Bera said. “This tapestry of different faiths, traditions, religions that have all come together to create this remarkable nation called America.” 

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