WASHINGTON – It was a busy year for Congress, which passed a series of companion bills, most of which received bipartisan support. And it could be the high-water mark of Joe Biden’s presidency from a legislative standpoint, with Republicans poised to take over the House of Representatives in early 2023.
As two years of full Democratic control draw to a close, here are five of the most significant bills passed in 2022.
A comprehensive climate, health and tax bill
The The Inflation Reduction Act represents the largest effort in U.S. history to fight climate change with a $369 billion package of clean energy funding that covers cars and homes and businesses. It also aims to curb methane emissions and allocates money to local communities that are heavily affected by air pollution and other climate-related problems.
The legislation contains new measures to lower prescription drug costs, including a provision allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry, a new $2,000 annual cap on Medicare prescription drug costs, and a $35 monthly insulin cap for Medicare beneficiaries. It is funded by a potpourri of new taxes, including a minimum tax of 15%.
There is also more funding for tax collection from the IRS included in the bill.
It passed by the slimmest of margins — a 51-50 vote in the Senate, which prevailed over every Democratic senator and required Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie, and 220-207 in the House. Not a single Republican voted for it.
A new electoral law aims to prevent another January 6
The massive government funding bill passed Friday included a major election reform package designed to prevent future presidential candidates from stealing elections.
The Act on reform of the election count will revise the 1887 Electoral Count Act to make clear that the vice president cannot discount electoral votes. It would raise the threshold for objections from one member of the House and Senate to one-fifth of both chambers. It will also prevent competing electoral lists and simplify state certification with mechanisms to ensure that the rightful winner is certified.
The bipartisan package, led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., is aimed at closing loopholes in federal law that former President Donald Trump and his allies tried to exploit to stay in power after losing the 2020 election. It is designed to protect future American elections and prevent another one on January 6.
The toughest new gun law in almost 30 years
For the first time in nearly three decades, Congress tightened gun laws, responding to growing public support for measures to address mass shootings that have become common in the US
The Safer Society Act — a bipartisan bill led by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas — includes grants for states to enact “red flag” laws designed to block people who may pose a threat to them themselves or others from purchasing or owning a firearm.
It increases background checks on 18- to 21-year-olds, and opens the door to investigating juvenile records. It seeks to close the “boyfriend loophole” by keeping firearms away from dating partners convicted of assault. The law also clarifies which gun sellers are required to register as licensees and thus forced to carry out background checks on potential buyers.
The action in Washington came in response to the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, which occurred 10 days apart and killed a total of 31 people, including 19 school children.
An Act to Improve America’s Competition with China
The CHIPS and the Science Act is both an important piece of legislation and a message that the United States has no intention of falling behind China in terms of global competitiveness.
The law — which grew out of a bill first negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind. — is investing a whopping $280 billion in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, and chip manufacturing tax breaks.
The White House and congressional defenders have described it as an important step to revitalize the struggling American manufacturing industry and make a payment in the American workforce. It’s another bipartisan success story for this Congress, which represents a rare point of strong bipartisan consensus: that the United States must combat China’s growing influence on the world stage.
Introduction of same-sex marriage
One of the last acts of the Democratic-controlled Congress was to pass a law codifying federal protections for marriage between same-sex and interracial couples.
The Law on respect for marriage – led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay American elected to the Senate – is forcing the federal government to recognize validly performed same-sex marriages and to ensure couples receive full benefits “regardless of the couple’s sex, race, ethnicity or national origin.” It would not require states to issue marriage licenses in violation of state law, but same-sex couples would enjoy the benefits if they marry in another state.
The legislation came about after the new 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court last summer voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, prompting critics to fear it could do the same to same-sex marriage rights. The new law provides a backstop for that possibility.
It reflected growing American support for legal same-sex marriage and was a celebratory moment for Biden a decade after he upstaged his then-boss, President Barack Obama, by jumping ahead of him to declare his support for same-sex marriage as vice president .