Legislative Preview of the 117th Congress: Webinar Key Takeaways

February 12, 2021

By Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

The first 100 days of a new administration are crucial for the president to set his legislative priorities for Congress and define the next four years.

NGA’s Government Relations team recently hosted a webinar to preview President Biden’s agenda and the issues and policies the 117th Congress will likely focus on during 2021. Leading the discussion were Chris Jones, senior vice president, government relations and counsel; Molly Pfaffenroth, senior director of government relations; Robert Yeakel, director of government relations; and Terence Huie, manager of grassroots and PAC.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Expect more regulation: As suggested by the stream of executive orders in the initial days of his presidency, Biden will be reversing many policies of the Trump administration. “A lot of the business-friendly policies we fought hard for are already being rolled back,” Yeakel noted.

Support for nutrition programs …: Budget resolutions coming out of the new Democrat-controlled Congress feature a boost for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including NGA led efforts for additional funding for technical support to allow more grocers to accept online SNAP purchases.

… and antitrust policy: The Biden administration – alongside Democrats holding key committee positions, such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar – offers the best chance in years for reinstating enforcement of the Robinson-Patman Act, designed to create a level playing field for smaller retailers, the ramifications of which were amplified during the pandemic as independent grocers struggled to obtain stocks of high-demand goods. “This is an area where we can gain a lot of traction for our industry,” Yeakel said.

Battle for boosting the minimum wage: Congressional Democrats are seeking a $15 federal hourly wage, which could be calamitous financially for smaller operators. But there’s a question of whether the proposal will survive the budget reconciliation process. “The expectation is that it will not, but we’re taking it very seriously,” Jones said.

Promising picks for Cabinet: Biden brought back a familiar face to lead USDA: Tom Vilsack, ag sec under President Obama and generally considered an ally to grocery. “He supports SNAP and works well with industry,” Pfaffenroth said.

Blue majority could see red: Democrats may control both houses of Congress, but their grip may not be tight enough to get everything their way. “It’s going to be tough for Democrats to push a lot of their big priorities through Congress,” Huie remarked. The Senate is split 50/50 and the House has the slimmest Democratic majority in recent history, suggesting that moderates of both parties are going to play a significant role in shaping policy for at least the next two years.

To view this complete webinar and others in the series, visit https://nga.sclivelearningcenter.com/MVSite/default.aspx.