Report from Governmental Affairs

2020 changes to 2021

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Most of us cannot wait until the end of 2020, the year of a pandemic that has seen the deaths of more than 240,000 Americans; business closures and high unemployment; a national reckoning with racial injustice punctuated by protests; devastation caused by hurricanes and wildfires; and the most contentious presidential race of our lifetime. All this was complicated by a divisive U.S. Supreme Court nomination received in the Senate only 38 days before the presidential election and questions raised about the integrity of potential election results.

This past year, the second session of the 116th Congress was consumed with filling judicial vacancies, passing major economic relief bills, taking steps to avoid a government shutdown and undertaking the confirmation process for a Supreme Court vacancy.

Committees in the Democratic House of Representatives investigated the Republican administration, while those in the Republican Senate investigated the Democratic party’s presidential candidate and his son.

Polarization, gridlock and politicization of the legislative process seemed to consume those elected to do the people’s business.

As we enter 2021, monumental challenges remain. The pandemic persists, and its devastating economic impact continues to overwhelm businesses and individuals across the country, especially minorities and the poor. Small businesses are permanently closing, unable to survive months of closures. People are experiencing health care, housing and financial problems unseen in decades. Schools at all levels are struggling to educate students under extraordinary circumstances. And issues of racial injustice remain in communities around the country.

The legislative agenda for this past year has essentially been placed on hold, so there is a plethora of unfinished business confronting the soon-to-be-organized new Congress: criminal justice, immigration, election security, gun violence, infrastructure, appropriations, health care, national security and more.

Congressional action in the upcoming 117th Congress will have long-lasting consequences for lawyers, our clients and the nation. Where do we start? How does the ABA decide what issues should take priority with our governmental affairs advocacy efforts? The short answer: with your input.

Use your voice

The Legislative Priorities Survey from the ABA Governmental Affairs Office is your opportunity to offer your voice on what issues in the new Congress are most important to you.

At the end of each Congress, we survey the entire ABA membership by email to learn what policy issues the ABA should focus on as the voice of the legal profession.

The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and the input provided is indispensable to informing the ABA’s advocacy priorities, especially during these fraught times.

The survey results will be presented to the Board of Governors at the ABA Midyear Meeting in February. The board will consider your input, along with the following criteria to determine whether an issue should be made a priority:

  • Breadth and strength of the ABA interest.
  • Importance to the practice of law.
  • Public perception of the profession.
  • Opportunity for impact.
  • Potential for achievement.
  • Timeliness of the issue.
  • Expertise of lawyers on the issue.
  • Importance to society.
  • Importance to the administration of justice.

Once the board approves the association’s legislative priorities for the upcoming Congress, GAO will publish the information on its website. These priorities will guide ABA leadership, the GAO’s team of lobbyists and our grassroots outreach supporting our advocacy efforts for the next two years. GAO launched the Legislative Priorities Survey for the 117th Congress right after the 2020 elections results were known. Members received emails asking for input, but any member of the legal profession can also access the survey here: bit.ly/3n2QD2s. Or point your cellphone camera at the QR code below. We are keeping the survey open until Dec. 31.

The ABA values its members’ input and encourages everyone to participate. This feedback plays a critical role in setting our legislative agenda for the new Congress—a Congress faced with mountains of challenges and unfinished business. Respond to the survey, and volunteer to participate in our advocacy efforts. We need your help to ensure the voice of the American legal profession is heard on Capitol Hill.

This story was originally published in the Dec/Jan 2020-2021 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “Picking Priorities: You can help determine the ABA’s goals for the 117th Congress.”


This report is written by the ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office and discusses advocacy efforts by the ABA.