WASHINGTON — It’s been a busy year for Congress, which passed a series of subsequent legislation, most of which received bipartisan support. And it could be the high point of Joe Biden’s presidency from a legislative standpoint, as Republicans look set to take over the House of Representatives in early 2023.
As two years of democratic scrutiny draw to a close, here are five of the most significant bills passed in 2022.
A comprehensive climate, health and tax bill
That Anti-Inflation Act represents the largest attempt in US history to tackle climate change with a $369 billion clean energy financing package covering cars, homes and businesses. It also aims to curb methane emissions and provides funding for communities hard hit by air pollution and other climate-related issues.
The legislation includes new measures to reduce prescription drug costs, including a provision authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry, a new $2,000 annual cap on Medicare’s prescription co-payments, and a $35 monthly cap on insulin for Medicare beneficiaries. It’s funded by a potpourri of new taxes, including a minimum corporate tax of 15%.
The bill also includes more funds for IRS tax collection.
It passed by the narrowest of margins — a 51-50 Senate vote that won over every Democratic senator and required Vice President Kamala Harris to break the tie, and 220-207 in the House of Representatives. Not a single Republican voted for it.
A new electoral law is intended to prevent another January 6th
The massive government finance bill passed on Friday included a sweeping electoral reform package aimed at preventing future presidential candidates from election-stealing.
That Election Census Reform Act will revise the Electoral Counts Act 1887 to clarify that the Vice President cannot disqualify electoral votes. It will raise the objection threshold from one member each of the House and Senate to one-fifth of both houses. It will also prevent competing voter lists and simplify state certification with mechanisms that ensure the rightful winner is certified.
The bipartisan package, led by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., aims to fill loopholes in federal law that former President Donald Trump and his allies tried to exploit to follow suit of power to remain election loss 2020. It is designed to protect the future US election and prevent another January 6th.
The toughest new gun law in almost 30 years
For the first time in nearly three decades, Congress tightened gun laws in response to growing public support for measures to combat mass shootings, which have become commonplace in the United States
That Safer Communities Act — a bipartisan bill led by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and John Cornyn, R-Texas — includes grants for states to pass “red flag” laws aimed at targeting people who pose a threat could discourage yourself or others from purchasing or owning a firearm.
It strengthens background checks of 18-21 year olds and opens the door to youth records screening. It seeks to close the “boyfriend loophole” by keeping guns away from dating partners convicted of abuse. The law also clarifies which gun sellers are required to register as licensees and are thus forced to conduct background checks on potential buyers.
The action in Washington came in response to mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, which took place 10 days apart and killed a total of 31 people, including 19 schoolchildren.
A law to improve US competition with China
That CHIPS and Science Act is both important legislation and a message that the US does not intend to fall behind China when it comes to global competitiveness.
The law — which grew out of a bill first introduced by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind. – Invests a whopping $280 billion in US semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, and tax breaks for chip production.
The White House and congressional defenders have described this as an essential step in revitalizing the ailing US manufacturing industry and paying down the American workforce. It’s another bipartisan success story for this congress that represents a rare strong consensus between the two parties: that the US must combat China’s growing influence on the world stage.
Embedding Same-Sex Marriage
One of the last acts of the Democrat-controlled Congress was to pass legislation codifying federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages.
That Respect for the Marriage Law — led by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the first openly gay American elected to the Senate — is forcing the federal government to recognize valid same-sex marriages and ensure that couples “regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” States are not required to issue marriage licenses contrary to state law, but same-sex couples enjoy the benefits of marrying in another state.
The law came after the Supreme Court’s new conservative 6-3 majority voted last summer to let Roe v. to overthrow Wade, leading critics to fear it could do the same to same-sex marriage rights. The new law offers a backstop against this possibility.
It reflects growing U.S. 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 leapfrogging ahead of him to express his support for same-sex marriage to declare as Vice President.