Image of the Capitol building

Setting the 2021 Agenda


With the State of the Union and the threat of a second shutdown behind us, Congress is back to where it was shortly after Election Night.

Now talk of pocket subpoenas and investigations fill the halls of Congress. It seems the likelihood of any legislation outside of core funding has dwindled to near zero. But, for public affairs professionals, what happens over the next two years in the House of Representatives will be critically important if, on January 20, 2021, we see a united government led by Democrats.

The last time Speaker Pelosi held the gavel with a Republican president, she led a serious and dedicated campaign to prepare a legislative agenda for a Democratic president in 2009. Long-time Democratic priorities like expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Stem Cell Research, and a bevy of appropriations bills met President Bush’s veto, only to become law once Democrats controlled both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

There’s even more to observe if we look not just at bills that were vetoed, but the legislative ground work laid for Obama’s eventual presidency: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Credit CARD Act, a slew of new regulations and significant reforms into managing public lands. Of course, we can’t ignore her most consequential achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

We all know Speaker Pelosi has shown herself to be a capable and powerful manager of her caucus, and the work done over the next two years will form the roadmap for a potential future Democratic presidency. Her caucus has outlined broad goals for hearings and likely votes including: prescription drug pricing, anti-Corruption, campaign finance reform, gun safety, infrastructure, immigration, net neutrality and many more.

...the work done over the next two years will form the roadmap for a potential future Democratic presidency.

It’s also important to understand that the new members of the caucus are not a singular monolith. While the Blue Dog caucus that came into prominence in 2007 is all but extinct, the current crop of freshmen contains points of view ranging from the left to a more traditional new Democrat center. 

For public affairs professionals, now is the time to begin influencing these debates and not allowing yourself to be caught adrift if the political winds of 2018 blow right on in to 2020. You need to focus on introducing your industry to these new members, clearly show the benefits you provide, and not allow your opponents to set terms of the debate for you. Many proposals will seem far-flung and unlikely to find momentum, but the consensus that is reached will likely form a fast track that you may not have time to respond to if control in Washington flips again.