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The most consequential votes Congress took in 2021

In the past year, Congress has voted on a number of noteworthy pieces of legislation.
Photo illustration: Vertical blue and orange pieces of paper with torn edges overlap the Capitol dome. Paper shows parts of text that read,\"infrastructure bill, January 6 select committee, censure of Paul Gosar\".
Congress took hundreds of votes in 2021 and the most consequential touched on Covid and impeachment. Anjali Nair / NBC News; Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Congress has voted on a number of noteworthy bills in the last year, including parts of President Joe Biden's economic agenda, the creation of a committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and stripping a member of Congress of their committee assignments.

As the year comes to a close, a lingering piece of legislation is Biden's $1.7 trillion economic safety net and climate bill, for which senators have not met their self-imposed Christmas deadline.

Here is a list of some of the most consequential votes taken so far.

House

$555 billion infrastructure bill

The House passed the bill 228-206 in November and relied on Republican votes to get across the finish line. Six Democrats voted against the measure, and 13 Republicans voted in favor. The Democratic opposition was progressive members who were unhappy that the bill was being voted on before passage of the social safety net spending bill.

Build Back Better

The House voted 220-213 to pass Biden's Build Back Better bill in November, with one Democrat joining all Republicans in opposing the measure. The legislation is a top legislative priority of the Biden administration. Democratic Rep. Jared Golden, of Maine, was the only Democrat to oppose the bill.

Jan. 6 select committee

The House voted 222-190 in June to establish a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, the only step needed to formalize the panel's creation. Two Republicans joined the Democrats in authorizing the committee. Reps. Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois, and Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, were the only Republicans to vote in favor of the committee.

Trump impeachment

The House voted 232-197 to impeach former President Donald Trump in January. A group of 10 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach Trump, including Cheney, Kinzinger and Reps. John Katko, of New York; Fred Upton, of Michigan; Jaime Herrera Beutler, of Washington; Dan Newhouse, of Washington; Peter Meijer, of Michigan; Tom Rice, of South Carolina; Anthony Gonzalez, of Ohio; and David Valadao, of California.

Removing Greene from committee assignments

In February, the House voted 230-199, with 11 Republicans joining Democrats, to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from the Budget Committee and the Education and Labor Committee after her social media posts revealed her spreading dangerous and racist conspiracy theories.

The GOP defectors were Kinzinger, Katko, Upton and Reps. Nicole Malliotakis, of New York; Brian Fitzpatrick, of Pennsylvania; Chris Jacobs, of New York; Carlos A. Giménez, of Florida; Young Kim, of California; Maria Elvira Salazar, of Florida; Mario Díaz-Balart, of Florida; and Chris Smith, of New Jersey.

Censure of Gosar

The House voted 223-207 to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., after he posted an animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and attacking Biden. Two Republicans voted in favor: Kinzinger and Cheney. The resolution also removed Gosar from the two committees he served on, Oversight and Reform, and Natural Resources.

Senate

Debt ceiling

The Senate voted 59-35, winning the support of 10 Republicans and every Democrat in attendance, in December to enable Congress to lift the debt ceiling and avert what would be the first default in U.S. history. The bill was the product of negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that satisfied demands from both parties by creating a complicated process to perform the simple task of lifting the debt ceiling.

The 10 Republican senators who joined Democrats in the vote were: John Barrasso, of Wyoming; Roy Blunt, of Missouri; Shelley Moore Capito, of West Virginia; Susan Collins, of Maine; Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska; Rob Portman, of Ohio; Mitt Romney, of Utah; John Thune, of South Dakota; Thom Tillis, of North Carolina; and McConnell.

Reinstating methane rules

The Senate voted 52-42 in April on a resolution to reinstate regulations designed to limit climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas fields, as part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to tackle climate change.

Three Republican senators — Collins, Portman and Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina — joined 49 Democrats to approve the measure, which only needed a simple majority under Senate rules. Five Republicans and one Democrat did not vote.

Infrastructure bill

In August, the Senate passed the $550 billion infrastructure bill, which invests in the nation’s roads, public transit, water and broadband. The bill passed 69-30, with 19 Republicans joining all Democrats.

The Republicans who voted with Democrats were: Blunt, Capito, Collins, Graham, McConnell, Murkowski, Portman, Romney, Tillis and Sens. Richard Burr, of North Carolina; Bill Cassidy, of Louisiana; Kevin Cramer, of North Dakota; Mike Crapo, of Idaho; Deb Fischer, of Nebraska; Chuck Grassley, of Iowa; John Hoeven, of North Dakota; James Risch, of Idaho; Dan Sullivan, of Alaska; and Roger Wicker, of Mississippi.

Trump impeachment trial

In February, the Senate voted 57-43 to acquit Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection despite significant Republican support for conviction, bringing an end to the fourth impeachment trial in U.S. history and the second for Trump, 10 votes short of the 67 needed to secure a conviction.

Seven Republicans voted to convict Trump for allegedly inciting the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, when a mob of his supporters tried to disrupt the electoral vote count formalizing Biden's win before a joint session of Congress. That was by far the most bipartisan support for conviction in impeachment history.

Republican Sens. Burr; Collins; Cassidy; Murkowski; Romney; Ben Sasse, of Nebraska; and Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, all voted guilty.

Austin confirmation

Lawmakers voted 93-2 in a final floor vote to confirm the first Black secretary of defense, retired four-star Army Gen. Lloyd Austin. Two Republicans — Sens. Josh Hawley, of Missouri, and Mike Lee, of Utah — were the only members to vote no.

Biden’s nomination of Austin troubled some Democrats because his retirement from the military happened less than seven years ago, the minimum period of time a civilian is required to wait to lead the Defense Department. Austin retired in 2016.