June 22, 2021

Bipartisan Successes of the 117th Congress


  • While politicians on the far left call for an end to the filibuster, Republicans and Democrats have operated efficiently under the rules to move major legislation.
  • So far in the 117th Congress, senators have worked together to revamp trade law, help the U.S. maintain its technological edge over China, and extend COVID-related aid to small businesses.
  • Senate committees have reported nearly 100 bills, a sign that the legislative process is working despite partisan differences.

Confounding histrionic declarations of “dysfunction” by the left, the Senate has been remarkably productive so far this Congress. Partisans who want to eliminate the filibuster have a vested interest in portraying the Senate as gridlocked. Dispassionate analysis of the situation reveals that the Senate is still passing important legislation on a variety of topics, including trade, our international competitiveness, and small business aid related to the pandemic. It has passed six major bills this Congress and is efficiently moving bills through the committee process. So far in the 117th Congress, the standing committees have referred nearly 100 bills for consideration by the full Senate. This is even more impressive given that the Senate wasn’t able to pass its organizing resolution to set up committee rules until February 3.

Committees with Most Reported Bills

Committees with Most Reported Bills

Getting Things Done

The Senate has succeeded in passing legislation on hot-button issues. One prominent example is S.1260, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which was a package of bills broadly intended to help the United States compete with China. The components in the package were reported on a bipartisan basis by a variety of Senate committees, and the bill ultimately passed by a 68-32 vote after 19 amendment votes. The base bill increases funding for scientific research and semiconductor production, and it calls on the administration to impose sanctions against the perpetrators of human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in and around Xinjiang, China.

Senators Crapo and Wyden were able to include their long-discussed bipartisan trade reform bill as an amendment to USICA. That language strengthens trade enforcement and gives the U.S. trade representative new tools to stop anti-competitive digital trade and censorship by China.

The Senate also passed an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program earlier this year. The program is now set to expire on June 30. In April, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act as well.

Imaginary “Dysfunction”

Despite this Congress’ bipartisan achievements, some observers on the left have complained about gridlock and dysfunction.” To them, a functioning Senate is one that mindlessly rubberstamps whatever progressive activists want. If partisanship is the goal, bipartisan achievements like USICA are irrelevant.

While some on the left have decided that the filibuster is the problem, partisan Democratic priorities have failed to garner even a simple majority of votes. On June 8, the Senate rejected H.R.7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, with 50 nay votes to 49 ayes. With Senator Manchin announcing his opposition to S.1, a partisan plan designed to help Democrats win elections, that bill also appears destined to fall short of 50 votes.

Majority Leader Schumer controls what pieces of legislation get a vote in the Senate. If he wanted to pass bills and end the perceived dysfunction, he could offer bipartisan bills. When he has chosen to do so, the Senate has passed them.

Issue Tag: Senate