On Sunday, members of the 117th Congress were sworn in. This new Congress is the most diverse in U.S history in terms of race and ethnicity, including having a record number of Black and Indigenous women in Congress. There are more women in Congress than at any other time in history, as well as record numbers of the LGBTQ community.
Members of Congress have their work cut out for them in the coming months. While Congress passed the appropriations and stimulus bill at the end of the year (which the President thankfully signed), many of the benefits in the stimulus bill expire in March. Congress will need to address a dizzying array of domestic concerns and international crises. And members across the political spectrum will want to take action on the promises they campaigned on, ranging from addressing racial injustice and enacting police reform to ending corruption and bringing back jobs.
A new Congress and new Administration presents The Episcopal Church with the opportunity to highlight our values and to speak up for the way we think our country should be governed. The first 100 days of the presidency do matter (see an article from FiveThirtyEight here and the work of political scientist Casey Byrne Knudsen Dominguez here), and the new Administration has an ambitious agenda. We are hopeful that our government will be able to rise to the challenge and enact meaningful legislation that helps all Americans. We will continue to engage on areas where the Church has spoken, including:
Creation Care: The Episcopal Church supports policies that protect the natural resources that sustain all life on Earth. In recognition that loving God and our neighbor includes caring for God’s creation and the environment where our neighbor lives, OGR advocates for policies that protect the natural world and that promote a healthy, clean, and safe environment for all. Our advocacy includes greenhouse gas emission reduction, a just transition away from fossil fuel energy, and safeguards to protect clean water and clean air.
Racial Reconciliation: OGR challenges long-established policies that perpetuate systemic racism and injustice and strives to change legislation that continues to harm Black and Indigenous communities and other communities of color. The Episcopal Church aims to bring a perspective of transformation to public policy to heal communities that have been the most marginalized and discriminated against.
Ending Poverty: OGR advocates for policies that will eliminate poverty and help people live with dignity, both in the U.S. and internationally. OGR advocates for federal programs that provide development assistance and humanitarian relief, including education and healthcare initiatives, as well as support for social safety net programs, care for veterans, and other U.S.-focused anti-poverty initiatives.
Immigration and Refugees: We advocate for comprehensive immigration reform through policies that respect the dignity and worth of every human being. OGR works to protect the human rights and safety of refugees by supporting the refugee resettlement work of Episcopal Migration Ministries and advocating for robust refugee resettlement policies.
Human Rights and Peacebuilding: The Church supports legislation and policies that protect human rights and prevent atrocities, promote gender justice, and build peace. OGR partners with non-U.S. Episcopal dioceses and provinces throughout the Anglican Communion to work towards justice.
We will also push for an ambitious response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including accelerating vaccination for the most vulnerable and helping to encourage the general public to take the vaccine following guidance from public health experts. We thank you for your commitment to public policy advocacy and look forward to our partnership in the year ahead!
With best wishes in this Christmastide and New Year,
The Office of Government Relations (OGR)