Jan 25, 2021
by Ed Lamb
With the vice president holding the tiebreaking vote, a 50-50 split between members of the Democratic caucus and the Republican caucus in the U.S. Senate gives control of the upper chamber of Congress to the Democrats. This makes it possible that several new and long-blocked pieces of legislation aimed at curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, raising the federal minimum wage, strengthening unions and prohibiting discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation will pass.
What’s at Stake for a Democratic Senate Majority
Much of President Joe Biden’s COVD-19 relief plan depends on the passage of new federal laws. The president has already issued a slew of executive orders on requiring masks at federal facilities and mobilizing public health resources. But he needs Congress to approve $1,400 stimulus payments, raise the minimum wage for everyone, extend eligibility for emergency paid leave and establish a number of programs to fund the hiring of state and local government workers.
Who Will Be in Charge in the new Democratic Majority
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee handles most of the laws that directly shape public sector human resources practice. HELP Committee members deal with the Affordable Care Act and COBRA, workplace safety legislation, and laws related to public education and student loans, workers’ rights and retirement benefits.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington is poised to take the chair of the HELP Committee. She lists her legislative priorities on her Senate website.
Other key committees for public sector HR and the presumptive chairs are
- Appropriations, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
- Budget, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
- Environment and Public Works, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.)
- Homeland Security and Government Affairs, Sen. Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.)
- Judiciary, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)
- Veterans Affairs, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)