How do you judge the effectiveness of your elected member of Congress? For those holding a seat in the House of Representatives, the clearest means is through legislation. The House is responsible for writing laws and for members, this is an opportunity to make good on campaign pledges, benefit their constituents and prove their worth as a legislator.
The 2018 Midterm election brought a Democrat majority to the House of Representatives and an influx of freshmen millennials.
This brief review looks at four who are bonded through media attention and their own commonalities: Representatives Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
How are they doing as legislators? Their records are below.
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, NY District 14 (110,318 votes)
Representative Ocasio Cortez has sponsored a single bill during her first term in Congress. H.R. 2930, the Loan Shark Prevention Act, whose title is self explanatory, was referred to committee in May 2019.
She introduced the Green New Deal resolution in February, a proposal that has no real legislative impact since it is not a bill and cannot become law.
Her other direct legislative activity included sponsoring three amendments, all in June of this year. One, H.R. Amendment 321, failed by voice vote. This would have allowed for funds to promote the legalization of certain controlled substances. Another sponsored amendment (320), transferred $15 million from the HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and Tuberculosis Prevention account to support Opioid Related Infectious Disease under the CDC. Her third amendment (417) affected an appropriations bill to reimburse low wage employees affected by a government shutdown.
Ocasio Cortez signed on as a cosponsor of multiple bills sponsored by her colleagues. Subject matter includes forgiving all student loans to issues involving homeownership, taxpayer relief, humanitarian relief at the border, women’s health, relief for Puerto Rico and human rights for Palestinians.
Ilhan Omar, MN District 5 (267,703 votes)
Representative Omar has been one of the busiest of the millennial legislators, writing seven bills since arriving as one of the first elected Muslim women along with Tlaib.
Omar immediately went to work. In January 2019, she introduced the Federal Worker Childcare Protection Act of 2019. H.R. 780 would reimburse childcare expenses to certain federal workers incurred during the government shutdown in 2018.
In February, Omar introduced Protect Against Unlawful Lobbying (PAUL) Act of 2019 (H.R. 1467), a bill aimed at the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which among other things would impose money penalties on violators and require that FARA lobbyists “disclose transactions involving things of financial value conferred on officeholders.”
In May, Omar introduced the Brunei Human Rights Act (H.R. 2561), the Frank Adelmann Manufactured Housing Community Sustainability Act (H.R. 2832) and H.R. 3004, Protect Democracy From Criminal Corporations Act. This last bill would prohibit “criminal corporations” from making campaign contributions at any level of government.
Omar wrote two more bills, posting them in June. The No Shame at School Act of 2019 prevents stigmatization of children whose families cannot afford school lunch (H.R. 3366). Her seventh proposed legislation is the Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019, a bill rivalling the campaign calls by Senators Warren and Sanders. Omar’s act would flatly forgive all student loan debt including Federal and private loans.
Ayanna Pressley, MA District 7 (60,046 votes)
Representative Pressley has introduced three pieces of legislation in her name. These have each been referred to their appropriate committee.
In January, she introduced H.R. 678, Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act of 2019, gathering an impressive 71 cosponsors.
The Healthy MOMMIES Act (H.R. 2602) was Pressley’s second bill in May. This would improve Medicaid and CHIP by amending the Social Security Act.
In June, Pressley brought forward H.R. 3296, Affordability Is Accessibility, a bill requiring health insurers to cover over-the-counter contraceptives.
In addition to these substantial bills, Pressley authored a number of House Resolutions. These include 456, calling for the SEC to protect grassroots investors; 437, designating “National Survivors of Homicide Awareness Month”; and House Concurrent Resolution 40, Supporting reproductive health care in the U.S., with 149 members signing on in support.
Rashida Tlaib, MI District 13 (165,355 votes)
Representative Tlaib, the Detroit native and former state house representative, gained notoriety on election night with her “impeach the motherfucker” promise, referring to Donald Trump. She followed this up with a House Resolution in March “Inquiring whether the House of Representatives should impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America.” Tlaib found a handful of Reps to co-sign her proposal, and it was summarily referred to the House-Rules committee.
Legislatively, she’s authored three bills, two of which directly impact her constituents.
Preventing Credit Score Discrimination in Auto Insurance Act (H.R. 1756), would prohibit the auto insurance industry from using one’s credit score in determining insurance. If adopted, such a measure could indirectly boost auto sales.
The Petroleum Coke Transparency and Public Health Protection Act (H.R. 1675), would require a study of the environmental impacts of the production, transportation, storage, and use of petroleum coke.
Tlaib’s third piece of legislation is H.R. 2510, The American Cars, American Jobs Act of 2019. This bill would encourage American car buyers to buy or lease American autos through a voluntary program.
All three of Tlaib’s bills have been referred to committees. She has also co-signed a number of other bills including the Border Property Protection Act, introduced by Representative Maxine Waters, a bill to improve legal services for female veterans and the Loan Shark Prevention Act proposed by Ocasio Cortez.
Looking at legislative work as a barometer for effectiveness, Rep. Omar is clearly the outstanding millennial legislator, writing seven pieces of legislation in her tenure at the House. By contrast, Rep. Ocasio Cortez fails at legislating, producing a single bill during that same time frame. Hostile and reactionary tweets, dance videos, media spots and publicly condemning the Democrats do not help her contituents. Legislation does.