A new Democratic president occupies the White House. With a House majority and a new, narrow majority in the Senate, Democrats control Washington completely for the first time in more than a decade.
For Democrats in Minnesota's congressional delegation, it means new opportunities to pursue priorities and shape major legislation. Minnesota Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, will find their agendas marginalized as they look for openings to make an impact.
The delegation member in perhaps the most powerful spot is Rep. Betty McCollum, a two-decade veteran of Congress and the Minnesotan with the most seniority. The Democrat from St. Paul will take over as chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, which sets spending decisions for about 15% of the massive federal budget.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in Congress since 2007, also gets a gavel for the first time this year. She'll chair the Senate Rules Committee, which sets procedures in the upper chamber — and will be closely involved with responding to the fallout from the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
For other Democrats in the delegation, their party's hold on Washington power means a better shot at seeing their policy wish lists become law. "It's a blessing we should be deeply grateful for, and an opportunity that should not be wasted," said Rep. Ilhan Omar, who's embarking on her second term.
In recent interviews, most of Minnesota's federal lawmakers said Congress' top priority in the coming days and weeks must be a massive federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, along the lines of what's been proposed by President Joe Biden.
"We have to focus on suppressing this virus," said Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat now in her second term. "Mass distribution of vaccines, as quickly as possible. It's the only way we're going to get the economy working again. I also want to see more focused help for small businesses. We need to make sure these businesses are standing at the end of the day."
On some issues, Democrats and Republicans see room for joint progress, perhaps none more than a big infrastructure bill. "I'd like to see our roads and bridges across America fixed and improved, and I think that's something we can do in a bipartisan way," said Rep. Pete Stauber, a second-term Republican.
Much of the focus on health care policy in the past year has centered on responding to the pandemic, but second-term Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips said he hopes lawmakers can get back to some underlying issues facing the country's system.
"We have to go back to questions of 'how do we improve access and reduce costs?' " Phillips said.
Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, just elected to her first full six-year term, said even as lawmakers try to help the new administration in getting the pandemic under control, they should also be working toward ways to help the American economy rebound.
"I think it's fair to say we have a massive amount of work in the coming days and months," Smith said.