Year in Review: 2019 Legislative Accomplishments
In 2019, my colleagues and I in the House Democratic Majority passed more than 400 bills – 275 of them with bipartisan support – to address issues that Marylanders and Americans care most about.
This includes legislation to clean up corruption in Washington, lower the cost of health care and prescription drugs, raise wages, act on climate, protect DREAMers, reduce gun violence, support our nation’s veterans, strengthen anti-discrimination protections and advance civil rights across the country, crack down on robocall scams and help fund important Maryland priorities, along with many other key issues.
As our first order of business, we passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a historic and transformational bill that I was privileged to author in my role as Chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force. H.R. 1 will clean up corruption in Washington, expose secret foreign money in our politics, crack down on lobbyists, strengthen election security, protect the right to vote and return power back to the American people with clean, citizen-owned elections. By leading with H.R. 1, House Democrats made a clear commitment to put the public’s interests ahead of special interests and to restore trust, transparency and integrity in Washington.
Building on H.R.1, House Democrats have passed a series of bills that show we’re fighting to make progress on key issues that matter to everyday Americans:
- Reducing the cost of prescription drugs and helping protect patients with pre-existing conditions. Americans are still too burdened by the cost of health care. That’s why the House passed H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which empowers Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies on high-priced drugs. H.R. 3 will also set a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for seniors and will expand Medicare benefits to cover dental, hearing and vision for the first time in the program’s history. We also passed H.R. 986, the Protecting Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions Act, to guard against predatory junk insurance plans that do not offer comprehensive health care coverage, including coverage for pre-existing conditions.
- Increasing paychecks for hardworking American families. With H.R. 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, we moved to close loopholes in existing law to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. With H.R. 582, the Raise the Wage Act, we sought to boost paychecks for more than 33 million Americans by increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
- Addressing the climate crisis and protecting our environment. It is critical that the United States remain in the Paris Climate Agreement. That’s why we passed H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act, to direct the Trump Administration to maintain this key commitment to combatting climate change. We also moved to permanently block new offshore drilling projects that would threaten the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, including Maryland’s coastline, with H.R. 1941, the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act.
- Tackling the epidemic of gun violence in America. For too long, we have been powerless in the face of gun violence. The House changed that by passing two bills – H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and H.R. 1112, the Enhanced Background Checks Act – that would significantly strengthen background checks for gun sales and transfers.
- Supporting our veterans and their families. The House packaged and passed a suite of ten bills that will improve health care, education and job opportunities for America’s veterans and their families.
- Protecting our elections and defending our democracy. In addition to the landmark H.R. 1, we’ve taken other steps to meet the coming threat to our elections. H.R. 2722, the SAFE Act, would increase ballot box security, while H.R. 4617, the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, curbs foreign money, influence and interference in our elections with a host of measures, including a duty to report illicit offers of campaign assistance from foreign nations or governments. We must also protect against threats to our democracy that originate here at home. That’s why the House adopted H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which restores and protects voting rights across the country with a new pre-clearance formula to combat voter suppression efforts, and with new measures to increase public information about changes to voting times and polling locations.
- Fighting against discrimination and for opportunity. We can never take our rights for granted. That’s why it was so important for the House to pass H.R. 5, the Equality Act, which ensures that all Americans – including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans – will be protected from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service. On the opportunity front, we stood in solidarity with our nation’s DREAMers by passing H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, which provides a path to lawful permanent resident status, and eventual citizenship, for DREAMers and those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
- Preserving a free and open internet. If we let down our guard, the internet could get hijacked by special interests. That’s why we passed H.R. 1644, the Save the Internet Act, which restores net neutrality protections and ensures that the internet remains free and open for all Americans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not brought any of these important priorities – which are supported by a majority of Americans – to the Senate floor for an up or down vote.
In 2020, House Democrats will continue building on the progress we’ve made and keep fighting to advance legislation that makes life better for all Americans. As we look ahead to continuing our important work for the people, I’d like to extend warm wishes to you and your family for a happy holiday season and a healthy new year.
Congressman John Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District