In Review: The Coalition's Work in the 116th Congress
A Note from Rep. Derek Kilmer, Chair of the NDC in the 116th:
I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to lead the New Democrat Coalition over the past two years.
Let’s be honest the waters were pretty turbulent these past two years (impeachment, pandemic, recession … murder hornets!), but I’m proud that the New Dems managed to navigate things constructively and productively as a coalition.
This Congress, the Coalition organized actively around our policy priorities and the direction we want to see our party and country head. I’ve often described the New Dems as the “Get Stuff Done” Caucus. Indeed, the center of gravity of the Democratic caucus and our majority lies within the New Democrat Coalition. Even New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote, “If you ask whether the Democrats shifted too far left, my answer is: The party has gotten more ideologically diverse, but there is a large, strong center that will keep it in the political mainstream” when talking about our “moderate and center-left” membership.
This coalition is larger, stronger, and far more diverse. In the 116th Congress, the NDC was the largest ideological Democratic House caucus with 104 Members. NDC Members were the majority makers in 2018 with 42 Freshman Members, meaning New Democrats made up over forty percent of the Democratic Caucus and two thirds of the freshman class.
The boat moves best when all oars are in the water, rowing in the same direction, and we had a great crew in that regard. We have had a terrific leadership team and accomplished a lot for our Members and constituents. I want to particularly express my gratitude to Jim Himes whose leadership helped build this Coalition. He was a great Chair in the 115th Congress and has been a great Chair Emeritus. As I step into the Emeritus role, I do so conscious of the fact that “Emeritus” is Latin for “still really engaged and deeply invested.”
This Congress, the NDC was led by an 11 Member leadership team.
- Rep. Derek Kilmer – Chair
- Rep. Suzan DelBene – Vice Chair for Policy
- Rep. Annie Kuster – Vice Chair for Communications
- Rep. Scott Peters – Vice Chair for Member Services
- Rep. Terri Sewell – Vice Chair for Outreach
- Rep. Pete Aguilar – Whip
- Rep. Mikie Sherrill – Freshman Whip
- Rep. Ami Bera – At-Large Leadership Member
- Rep. Kathleen Rice – At-Large Leadership Member
- Rep. Chrissy Houlahan – Freshman Leadership Representative
- Rep. Jim Himes – Chair Emeritus
We had eight active policy task forces with 31 Members serving as co-chairs and many more serving as task force members. Each task force helped shape the NDC’s vision and broader caucus agenda, advancing bold ideas and innovative solutions through the development of policy principles, NDC-wide bill endorsements, and advocacy within committees and the caucus. Read more for a full list of the NDC-endorsed bills and priorities.
Thank you to everyone who led and participated in the policy tasks forces for their leadership and hard work.
- The Climate Change Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Don Beyer, Sean Casten, Susan Wild, and Elaine Luria
- The Future of Work Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Bill Foster, Chris Pappas, Haley Stevens, and Lisa Blunt Rochester
- The Health Care Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Angie Craig, Kurt Schrader, Kim Schrier, and Greg Stanton
- The Housing Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Denny Heck, Ben McAdams, and Norma Torres
- The Infrastructure Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Stacey Plaskett, Jason Crow, Elissa Slotkin, and Salud Carbajal
- The National Security Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Anthony Brown, Brendan Boyle, Brad Schneider, and Abigail Spanberger
- The Technology Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Sharice Davids, Kendra Horn, Harley Rouda, and Darren Soto
- The Trade Task Force
- Co-Chairs: Reps. Ron Kind, Rick Larsen, Greg Meeks, and Lizzie Fletcher
The House has passed nearly 900 bills this Congress and more than 200 bipartisan bills were signed into law. The NDC has been integral to the House’s legislative agenda and success, with many of the nearly 70 NDC-endorsed bills passing the House as standalone items or within landmark legislation. The NDC also secured key funding and language in spending packages to advance our priorities on the future of work, affordable housing and infrastructure development, cybersecurity and advanced technology, and robust funding for the NIH. NDC members have led the way on many of these critical issues and solutions, delivering results for the American people.
The NDC is focused on solving the challenges of the 21st century, looking at old problems through a new lens and advocating forward-looking policies that expand opportunities, promote innovation, keep Americans safe, and reinvigorate government. The NDC worked strategically to advance its 20 for 2020 Policy Agenda, leading the way and influencing legislation on the future of work, building economic opportunity, addressing the climate crisis, modernizing American infrastructure, expanding affordable housing, restoring trust in elections, and lowering the costs of health care and prescription drugs for Americans.
Our coalition hasn’t always been catnip for cable news or been viral on social media. But while it’s nice to have catchy three-word slogans, it takes more than a bumper sticker to create a law. If we had a three-word slogan, it would be Get Stuff Done. Our approach is what the American people are asking for. And it’s what these challenges demand. You know what’s cool? Getting stuff done. I’ll take those three words every day. And you know what? So will the American people. That was our focus this Congress, and that’s the plan going forward.
As we look to the 117th Congress, the NDC is poised to remain the largest ideological caucus with over 95 Members. As President-elect Biden’s natural partners in Congress, New Democrats are positioned to continue steering the House agenda with more seats at the Caucus Leadership table and New Dems chairing and serving on key committees.
I congratulate Chair-elect (and fellow Seahawks fan) Suzan DelBene and each of the talented Members elected to serve in NDC Leadership next Congress and look forward to working with them to push pragmatic policy solutions to serve our constituents’ interests. Let’s get stuff done!
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More on the NDC in the 116th Congress below:
The coronavirus pandemic levied a once in a 100-year threat to the American people. Our country has experienced a public health disaster and economic catastrophe unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. Unfortunately, the impacts of the pandemic were exacerbated by the Trump Administration’s denial of the severity of this crisis, ineffective and untimely response, consistent undermining of the scientific and medical communities, and failure to work with the House on additional health and economic relief as the crisis continued to escalate. Despite these challenges, the NDC organized quickly, fought for our constituents, pushed for a coronavirus relief bill in the House, and secured important provisions to support our constituents and communities.
All New Democrats supported the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in March, the first piece of comprehensive relief legislation aimed at bolstering the federal government’s response to the pandemic. This legislation also included a bipartisan measure led by NDC Chair Derek Kilmer (WA-06) to grant disaster unemployment assistance to people who were unable to work due to the outbreak. The NDC was the first House ideological caucus to publicly release comprehensive policy principles and recommendations for Congress’s coronavirus response and economic recovery packages. The economic recommendations, which looked to address the economic challenges posed by the pandemic and to mitigate long-term economic impacts, were designed to (1) Triage and Respond, (2) Streamline and Stabilize, and (3) Return to Normal. As coronavirus transmission rates worsened, New Democrats played an integral role in helping Congress successfully transition to remote voting by proxy and virtual committee hearings, in an attempt to protect Members and staff.
NDC Members also widely supported the CARES Act in late March and April’s interim relief package, both of which became law, as well as House passage of The Heroes Act in May. The NDC secured language in these three pieces of legislation that were aimed at providing Americans with the support they need during the pandemic.
The NDC, led in large part by NDC Chair Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Rep. Don Beyer (VA-02), and NDC Vice Chair Scott Peters (CA-52), continued to push for the implementation of automatic stabilizers in future packages. Rep. Don Beyer (VA-02) and NDC Chair Derek Kilmer (WA-06) introduced legislation to tie unemployment insurance to economic conditions to ensure relief is available to the American people for the duration of the pandemic and economic crisis and recovery. The NDC also urged House Leadership to implement a national recovery strategy, outlining a three-pronged approach for widespread coronavirus containment and mitigation efforts to ensure a safe and lasting reopening.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to threaten American lives, livelihoods, and our nation’s economy. As of today, the NDC is pushing hard to get an additional COVID relief package passed before the end of 2020. Action is needed now to ensure Americans have the resources necessary to weather the pandemic.
On Racial Justice:
The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery brought back into light the continued racial injustice that Black Americans face in our nation every day. These events are part of a larger pattern of racial injustice and inequality in our society, and it is well past time that our nation confront and reckon with not only its past, but also its present.
Following these tragic incidents, the NDC hosted a call with Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Karen Bass and New Dem Members who are also members of the CBC to discuss action Congress can take to help rectify the injustice many Black Americans are experiencing and help bring our communities together. Following the call, NDC Chair Derek Kilmer (WA-06) issued a statement reiterating the NDC’s commitment to remaining partners with our colleagues in the CBC and Black leaders in condemning and working to end targeted police violence across the country.
To honor our commitment, the NDC endorsed two major pieces of racial justice legislation: the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act. The NDC was pleased to see the first bill pass out of the House and the second get signed into law. The NDC, led by NDC Vice Chair Terri Sewell (AL-07) also partnered with the Congressional Black Caucus to celebrate National Black Business Month by providing resources and encouraging Members to host events with Black business leaders in their communities.
Following the CBC’s lead, the NDC will continue looking to listen to the lived experiences of Black Americans and to support a comprehensive legislative path forward in Congress to achieve racial justice.
On Health Care:
Despite the Trump Administration’s attempts to strip away health care from millions of Americans, New Democrats took decisive action to build on the success of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to tackle rising health care costs. In the greatest country on the planet, people should not go broke when they get sick or are injured.
At the start of this Congress, New Democrats urged House leaders to prioritize strengthening and expanding on the ACA to continue the path toward affordable universal coverage. The ACA has expanded coverage to millions of Americans and protected coverage for millions more. The NDC remains committed to durable solutions that will strengthen our health care system, increase access, and improve affordability. The NDC has also worked diligently to advance policies to lower the costs of prescription medications for the American people.
Most recently, the House passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act to further stabilize and improve the Affordable Care Act. That bill included several NDC-led and endorsed provisions. Over the course of this Congress, the NDC endorsed several bills to strengthen the nation’s existing health care system, stabilize and expand the Affordable Care Act, bring down insurance costs for Americans, and increase transparency, competition, and affordability of prescription medications. The NDC has advocated to move forward these and other measures that have a pathway to becoming law. New Democrats have also pushed for many important provisions that were incorporated into H.R. 3, including reinvestment of savings in biomedical innovation, expanding Medicare services for seniors, helping combat opioid addiction, increasing access to healthcare in underserved areas, and countless other provisions.
The NDC has endorsed numerous bills to advance these efforts and will continue fighting for more affordable, accessible health care for all Americans.
On Climate Change and the Environment
Climate change is an existential threat to the health, national security, economic prosperity, and future of our people and planet. Recognizing the importance of this issue to the future, the NDC organized around climate change for the first time. Prior to Climate Week 2019 at the U.N. General Assembly, the NDC, led by NDC Climate Change Task Force Co-Chairs Don Beyer, Sean Casten, Elaine Luria, and Susan Wild, released its Principles for U.S. Climate Policy, a pathway to urgently address climate change, and endorsed its first slate of twelve bills – seven of which are bipartisan – to take actionable steps towards achieving the New Dem goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Since the NDC’s release of its principles, the Coalition endorsed two additional legislative packages to build on our robust agenda, leverage innovative decarbonization solutions to advance a swift and just transition to a more sustainable planet, and meet the climate crisis with the urgency it demands.
The NDC was the first major caucus to outline a comprehensive climate change plan this Congress and our priorities and legislative package endorsement were met with support by House Leadership, Members of Congress, and industry leaders and stakeholders. Read the one-pager, the full principles, and the full list of NDC-endorsed climate bills.
The House passed the NDC-endorsed H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act to recommit the U.S. to the Paris Climate Agreement. In beginning withdrawal from the agreement, the Trump Administration ceded America’s role as a global leader. New Dem Members also supported legislation to expand research and innovation to understand and address ocean acidification and coastal community vulnerabilities, which are driven in large part by climate change. The House also passed the Clean Energy Jobs and Innovation Act, which included provisions based on several NDC-endorsed bills.
Finally, NDC applauded the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (SCCC)’s Solving the Climate Crisis: Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy, which included twenty New Dem provisions. Earlier this year, several NDC Members testified at the SCCC’s Member Day. NDC Climate Change Task Force Co-Chair Sean Casten (IL-06) and NDC Climate Change Task Force Members Julia Brownley (CA-26) and Donald McEachin (VA-04) also serve on the Select Committee. The Climate Action Plan aligns with the NDC’s priorities to solve the climate crisis and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
The climate crisis remains the existential threat of our time. The NDC will continue pushing for innovative, bold, and bipartisan policy solutions to ensure a healthy, livable planet for future generations.
On the Future of Work
As advancements in technology and artificial intelligence continue to impact our economy and the nature of work, it is vital that America has policies that empower workers to navigate economic change and access opportunities. The Future of Work Task Force built on the work from last Congress’ Economic Opportunity Agenda: A Future that Works to push for forward-looking policies that give Americans the tools to succeed in the economy of the future.
The NDC has long been an advocate for entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses throughout America. They are a crucial source of economic growth and opportunity, creating millions of jobs throughout the nation every year. NDC Members, recognizing the important role startups play in advancing American innovation, introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at mitigating the economic disruptions and challenges startups face during the coronavirus pandemic. In both 2019 and 2020, the NDC, led by Freshman Leadership Representative Chrissy Houlahan, celebrated Congressional Startup Day to bring awareness to the entrepreneurial activity across our nation.
The NDC, led by the Future of Work Task Force, helped drive focus on future of work issues in the 116thCongress. The Coalition sent a letter to House Committee on Education & Labor Chair Bobby Scott, urging him to include the Coalition’s perspective in finding innovative solutions to our shared priority of ensuring all Americans have the opportunity to earn a good life. Specifically, NDC requests to be involved in discussions around legislative action on the future of work, including the changing nature and structure of work and the economy.
The Future of Work Task Force has also advanced priorities through the appropriations process, leading a provision that passed in the FY20 appropriations package, and was signed into law, urging the Bureau of Labor Statistics to better measure labor trends and conduct the contingent worker survey (CWS) which measures workers in non-traditional work arrangements, on a more frequent basis. New Dems built on that work this year, securing language in the House-passed FY21 appropriations package to better measure the full scope of the alternative workforce and improve BLS sector-specific labor market forecasting in light of rapidly advancing technology.
NDC Members know affordable housing is paramount to the economic security of American families. America is currently facing a housing crisis, which is causing stagnation in local and national economies and presenting prohibitive barriers for American families to climb up the economic ladder. That’s why, at the start of the Congress, the NDC hosted a public forum with two panels of experts to discuss measurable solutions to address America’s housing crisis. More on the ecosystem of the housing market today and how housing supply is not meeting demand.
Building on last Congress’s Millions of Missing Homes report, the NDC endorsed two slates of housing legislation to address the housing crisis in America. These bills aimed to increase housing supply, improve affordability and promote affordable housing development, increase access to lending, and provide transparency of COVID-19 housing and rental relief.
The NDC’s endorsement of Housing Task Force Co-Chair Denny Heck’s (WA-10) bipartisan, bicameral Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) Act helped advance the legislation, which secured House passage. The YIMBY Act would help address burdensome restrictions on land use, one of the root causes of our nation’s housing shortages. The NDC also secured language in the FY21 appropriations package to promote land-use policy updates to encourage transit-oriented affordable housing development.
Across the country, America’s transportation and infrastructure systems are in dire need of modernization. Because it is one of the most immediate ways Americans interact with their government on a daily basis, the NDC committed to working across the aisle to rebuild, repair, and expand the nation’s infrastructure.
In building on the Coalition’s Four Pillars for an Infrastructure Deal from last Congress and formulating its infrastructure priorities for this Congress, the New Dem Infrastructure Task Force launched a listening tour across America. New Dem Infrastructure Task Force Co-Chair Stacey Plaskett (US-VI) kicked off the tour with Rep. Colin Allred (TX-32) in Dallas, TX, and Rep. Joe Cunningham (SC-01) in Charleston, SC. The tour featured a series of town halls, roundtables with experts, and tours of critical infrastructure sites.
Seeing an opportunity to reach a bipartisan agreement on a transformational infrastructure package, NDC Members urged President Trump to work with Congress on comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to bring America’s infrastructure into the 21st century. Unfortunately, the Administration never came to the table in good faith and eventually pulled out of negotiations. However, House Democrats persisted in their fight to modernize American infrastructure and passed H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act which contained several NDC-backed provisions.
The NDC remains committed to working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find consensus on how to pay for an infrastructure proposal to meet the needs of the American people.
On National Security
Ensuring the safety and security of America and all Americans is a fundamental responsibility of Congress. The NDC, led by National Security Task Force Co-Chairs Brendan Boyle, Anthony Brown, Brad Schneider, and Abigail Spanberger, released national security principles for a smart, comprehensive national security strategy to keep Americans safe and advance America’s interests at home and abroad. Composed of four pillars, the National Security Principles aim to promote the safety and prosperity of Americans and recommit the United States to its role as a global leader and key player in the creation and maintenance of a productive world order. The National Security Task Force produced a one-pager and full principles document.
To protect American interests, the NDC endorsed The Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which passed the House. The legislation reauthorizes the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and aims to keep terrorism insurance coverage affordable and accessible, giving American communities the financial security and peace of mind that the nation will stand behind them in the event of a tragedy.
NDC Members supported House passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) both in 2019 and 2020, which authorizes the funding needed for a strong, smart national defense strategy. Coalition member Adam Smith serves as chair of the House Armed Services Committee and led the effort on this important legislation. The NDC also led provisions in the FY20 and FY21 appropriations packages to implement the recommendations of a 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the impact of Department of State personnel vacancies on America’s national security and foreign policy objectives, and to expand that study to include senior officials, political appointments, and the large number of “acting” positions. Chair Kilmer also secured language in the FY21 appropriations package to ensure federal agencies are complying with necessary risk management and cybersecurity measures, including implementing the National Institute of Standards and Technology‘s cybersecurity framework.
The NDC is committed to maintaining the United States’ position as a global leader and supports smart trade policy that benefits American workers, businesses, farmers, and consumers. Since its founding, the NDC has been integral to the congressional consideration of every major trade initiative, including the NDC-endorsed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The NDC celebrated Senate passage of the updated USMCA agreement and was pleased to see the Democratic-negotiated version signed into law. This updated trade deal came after the release of NDC-endorsed NAFTA 2.0 priorities, which advocated for the modernization of NAFTA to better reflect the global economy, and to better serve the interests of American workers, farmers, and businesses.
The NDC has spoken out on President Trump’s unilateral tariffs on all Mexican imports and on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. The NDC also rebuked President Trump on his refusal to release the Section 232 proposed tariffs on imported automobiles and auto parts to Congress. These tariffs undermine America’s relationships with its allies and the global rules of trade first established by the United States.
The House also passed New Dem-endorsed legislation to support American workers and small businesses. The bipartisan United States Export Finance Agency Act of 2019, which reauthorizes and expands the Export-Import Bank for ten years, would finance the export of American-made goods from companies nationwide, including those having trouble accessing private markets for export financing. In a bipartisan deal struck with the administration and the Senate, a seven-year reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank was included in the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations package with the NDC’s support.
On Election Security
Our nation’s free and fair elections are a cornerstone of American democracy. Restoring and defending the integrity of America’s election security and voting rights is of paramount importance, which is why the NDC endorsed H.R. 1 – the For the People Act, NDC Vice Chair Sewell’s H.R. 4 – the Voting Rights Advancement Act, and a package of New Dem-led bills to do just that. NDC Chair Kilmer joined with other leading House Democrats to introduce The Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act, which included provisions endorsed by the Coalition. These bills are designed to better protect America’s elections by protecting voting rights for all Americans, curbing foreign influence, increasing transparency, and ensuring accountability through various reforms and regulations.
The NDC also pushed to reverse Postmaster Louis DeJoy’s sweeping operational and organizational changes that resulted in delays in the mail across the country during the 2020 election cycle. The NDC was pleased to endorse the Delivering for America Act, which provided additional funding to the United States Postal Service and prohibited any changes to the operations or service levels that would impede prompt, reliable, and efficient service for the duration of the coronavirus crisis or through January 2021.
On Technology & Artificial Intelligence
New Democrats believe America must update its laws to reflect 21st century technology in order to secure American leadership of the digital economy, consumer privacy, and cyber engagement. That is why the NDC endorsed Rep. Suzan DelBene’s H.R. 2013, the Information Transparency & Personal Data Control Act, to give people control over their most sensitive information and improve enforceability. This legislation requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to mandate disclosure from companies on what information they are collecting and why, especially if it is being shared with another party. This bill has received substantial coverage by Bloomberg, POLITICO, and The Hill.