WASHINGTON — There were 24,766 bills and resolutions introduced in the 117th Congress that is coming to a close, with Minnesota lawmakers responsible for more than 500 of them.
Yet, despite the flood of legislation proposed by the 535 members of the House and Senate, only a fraction – usually fewer than 10% – are enacted into law.
“Why do they introduce all these bills that have little chance of passing?” asked Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance (CSPG) at the University of Minnesota. “They do it to appease constituents and donors.”
To Jacobs, “the process in Congress is too much going on and too little time.” So most legislation that’s introduced is referred to a committee, where it languishes.
The eight members of the House from Minnesota introduced more than 200 bills during the 117th Congress, which was gaveled in in January of 2021. According to Congress.gov, only 25 of those bills passed the House and even fewer were made law. Nine of them were bills that would rename a post office in Minnesota.
But looking at individual bills that won approval of by the House and Senate does not tell the whole story. Many bills the delegation championed were included in larger bills approved by this Congress.
Margaret Hershey, professor of political science at Indiana University, said attaching legislation to a larger bill in an effort win congressional approval “is increasingly common.”
“It’s very difficult to get 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate to reach an agreement on anything,” she said. “So this is one way to get around the increasing partisan and ideological polarized nature of Congress.”
A massive bill may contain proposals a lawmaker doesn’t like, but he or she will vote for the legislation because there are other proposals in the bill they do support, Hershey said.
Adding legislation sponsored by Minnesota’s lawmakers to “must pass” bills has occurred through this session of Congress.
For instance, Rep. Angie Craig, D-2nd, introduced 37 bills in this Congress. Three were approved by the House, a fourth, a short-term spending bill, became law and another bill, naming a post office after Officer Leo Pavlak, the only South St. Paul Police Officer to have lost his life in the line of duty, has been sent to President Biden for his signature.
One of Craig’s House-approved bills, the Local Water Protection Act, which reauthorizes a federal grant program aimed at efforts to control water pollution, was included in the massive National Defense Authorization Act, which determines the military’s budget and establishes Pentagon policy.
And the Inflation Reduction Act, a massive bill climate and health bill, included Craig’s provision that people with diabetes pay no more than $35 for an insulin prescription. However, Senate Republicans forced a rollback on the provision so it applies only to Medicare patients.
The last massive bill likely considered by the 117th Congress is an omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government, whose funding authority will end today.
The omnibus bill contains some legislation sponsored by Craig – including measures to speed Food and Drug Administration approval of certain generic drugs – and other Minnesota lawmakers.
But other than the omnibus, there were few opportunities for lawmakers to push their bills through Congress in its waning days and most of the thousands of bills that have been introduced will soon die.
That did not stop Minnesotan lawmakers from continuing to sponsor new bills, even though there is no time for hearings or the process that tees up legislation for a vote.
Rep. Brad Finstad, R-1st, for instance, introduced a bill this week that would overturn a U.S. Labor Department rule that allows retirement plans to offer funds that prioritize environment and social factors – including climate change and racial justice. Finstad said these investments will result in losses, and “the primary obligation of retirement plan should be to make investments based on maximum returns.”
Legislation sponsored by other Minnesota lawmakers
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd, 32 bills introduced, one passed the House, one became law
Phillips’ Small Business Loan Agent Transparency Act, which calls for better oversight of the agents making loans that are guaranteed by the federal government, passed the House and a separate bill renaming a post office in Wayzata after former Rep. Jim Ramstad has become law.
Phillips, however, was active in pressing for more funding of local police during negotiations on a police funding package that was approved by the House and has used his chairmanship of a House Small Business subcommittee to press the Small Business Administration for reforms of it loan program, including loans to employee-owned businesses.
Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th, 19 bills and resolution introduced, three bills passed the House
McCollum introduced a bill that would reauthorizes the federal government’s global hunger and food security initiatives. The Global Food Security Act passed the House and became law after it was attached to the National Defense Authorization bill.
McCollum also won approval for two House resolutions. One would “express profound sorrow of the House of Representatives” on the death of former vice president Walter Mondale and the other would express the chamber’s sorrow on the death of former Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-1st.
Like other legislation, resolutions must be approved by both the House and Senate and signed by the president to become law.
Another McCollum bill approved by the House would reaffirm the right for the secretary of the Interior to take land into trust for Indian Tribes.
However, McCollum’s greatest legislative accomplishment, as chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, is the approval of this year’s more than $760 billion Pentagon budget, is included in the massive omnibus package.
Rep. Ihan Omar, D-5th, 35 bills introduced, three passed by U.S. House, two awaiting Biden’s signature
Omar’s Combatting Islamophobia Act, which would establish a new office in the State Department to combat Islamophobia and monitor incitement to Islamophobia, was approved by the House, as were two of the lawmaker’s bills renaming post offices in Minneapolis.
One would rename a post office after former Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-5th, and the other would rename a post office after Charles W. “Chuck” Lindberg a highly decorated corporal who fought in World War II and was one of the marines who raised the first American flag over Iwo Jima. The post office bills, co-sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, were approved by the Senate Tuesday and await Biden’s signature.
As a leading progressive in the House, Omar also helped negotiate changes other legislation, including a House policing package and another bill aimed at fighting domestic terrorism.
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, 37 bills introduced, four became law
As a Republican in a chamber controlled by Democrats, Emmer and other Minnesota GOP lawmakers, faced challenges having their legislation considered by committees and leaders of the opposing party. That will change next year when the House comes under Republican control and Emmer becomes the 3rd ranking GOP leader in that chamber – majority whip.
Emmer has already indicated he will again push for approval of his Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act, which would shield blockchain technology that is used in the buying and selling of crypto, from some of the regulations of the Financial Action Task Force a global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.
Despite his minority status in this Congress, Emmer’s legislation renaming a post office in Avon, the W.O.C. Kort Miller Plantenberg Post Office, after one of three National Guardsmen killed in a Blackhawk helicopter crash, has become law.
Another Emmer bill that became law is the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Reauthorization Law, which establishes new federal grants to allow states and local governments to develop programs that help the incarcerated with substance abuse issues and develop crisis intervention teams and mental health law enforcement training.
And Emmer’s Abby Honold Act, was signed into law by Biden as part of $1.5 trillion budget bill. It establishes a two-year test program for police training on investigations into sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking and was inspired by the rape of a student at the University of Minnesota who spent years seeking justice. Klobuchar was the Senate sponsor of the bill.
Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-7th, 18 bills introduced, four approved by House
Fischbach won House approval of a bill that would make technical corrections to the U.S. laws relating to the national and commercial space programs and three bills renaming post offices.
One would rename a facility in Windham after James A. Rogers and another would establish the Charles Nord Post Office in Perham. Both are Minnesota Guardsmen who perished in a Blackhawk crash. A third post office bill sponsored by Fischbach would rename a facility in Vergas after Jon Glawe, a veteran who delivered mail in the area for 36 years.
Fischbach also won approval of part of her Ship It Act in the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022, a bill sponsored by Klobuchar, aimed at reducing pandemic-induced congestion at U.S. ports, which have resulted in inflationary prices and shortages. The bill was made into law.
Rep. Peter Stauber, R-8th, 26 bills introduced, three approved by U.S. House
Stauber won House approval of a bill that would give preference to small businesses as subcontractors in federal contracts, a bill that would establish a task force to seek reforms in the way the Federal Aviation Administration sends notices to pilots and other flight crew and a bill renaming a post office in Akeley the Neal Kenneth Todd Post Office, after a U.S. Navy fireman who died in the Dec. 7, 1941 attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.
Stauber also had a victory in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which included his legislation aimed at reducing small business contracting fraud.
Minnesota’s senators introduce largest number of bills
Of the members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation, Klobuchar has by far introduced the largest number of bills, 224 of them. She als0 had the most legislative victories.
Twenty-three of Klobuchar’s bills and resolutions were passed by the Senate, eight have become law and two are awaiting Biden’s signature.
Beside the shipping bill, Klobuchar-sponsored bills that are law include legislation inspired by the Jan. 6 attack that “allows the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police to request emergency assistance from executive departments and executive agencies to prevent significant disruption of governmental function and public order at the U.S. Capitol.”
Another Klobuchar bill made law will establish new statues on the Capitol grounds honoring former Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Conner and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
One that will become law with Biden’s signature designates the federal building located at 212 Third Ave. S. in Minneapolis as the Paul D. Wellstone Federal Building. Another would reauthorize critical resources to conserve and protect fish and wildlife populations in the Great Lakes.
Klobuchar’s legislation was also included in other, landmark bills that were approved by the 117th Congress. For instance her legislation that provides funding for the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, which provides a $30 monthly subsidy for low-income families and $75 a month for tribal communities to use on their internet bills, was included in the infrastructure bill.
And the Honoring our Pact Act of 2022 that aims to improve healthcare to veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during military service, includes a Klobuchar provision that will provide health care personnel with improved education and training related to burn pits and establish a new national training program for those handling disability claims related to burn pit exposure.
The omnibus bill also contains several Klobuchar initiatives, including one that directs the National Institute of Mental Health to research the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of Americans.
But three bills aimed at reining in Big Tech that are Klobuchar priorities have been subject to a multi-million dollar lobbying and advertising campaign opponents, which include Amazon, Google and Meta.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., introduced 79 bills. Nine passed the Senate, six were resolutions.
One Smith resolution recognized October 2022 as “National Principals Month.” Another recognized November 17, 2021, as “National Butter Day.”
Yet many Smith bills were included in larger legislation.
Several became law as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, including a measure that would offer financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural business owners to install renewable energy systems and adopt energy efficiency measures.
And the Violence Against Women’s Act included Smith’s legislation that restores Tribal jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence committed by non-Native offenders on Tribal lands.
Smith, and other Minnesota lawmakers, were also key co-sponsors of many other bills that became law.