The House

So much to day.  But, I’m spending all my time consuming and not enough blogging.  I’m definitely disappointed in Florida, the Ohio Governor, the Senate overall, and that the Democrats didn’t get closer to the 40 seats I was thinking.  I think what happened in Georgia is an absolute travesty, “Brian Kemp’s Lead in Georgia Needs an Asterisk: If the governor’s race had taken place in another country, the State Department would have questioned its legitimacy.”

But, Democrats taking the house is huge, huge, huge.  And if not for the absurd amount of gerrymandering to overcome, we’d be talking about a lot more than a 30 seat swing.  Some good takes on why this matters so much.

Michael Tomasky:

You know what taking back the House means. Democrats will hold the committee gavels. Bye-bye, Devin Nunes at the intelligence committee. Hello, Adam Schiff. So long, Bob Goodlatte at Judiciary. Welcome, Jerry Nadler. Sayonara, Kevin Brady of Ways and Means. Hand the gavel to Richard Neal of Massachusetts, who told the media before it was even official that the Democrats would capture the majority that he is going to seek to get President Trump’s tax returns. Financial Services is going to Maxine Waters! I guess Trump’s about to find out what her IQ really is.

There are so many others. No point in naming them all. But if you feel like it, just go down a list of committees and subcommittees and paint the picture in your mind. Every single committee now with jurisdiction over Ben Carson, over Betsy DeVos, over Ryan Zinke, over Wilbur Ross, over you name it. Administration figures are going to be hauled up there on a weekly basis. And not just on corruption, but on policy, too. How did Trump come to pull out of the Paris climate accord? How did they devise the family separation policy at the border? Finally, someone, or a lot of someones, is going to have to answer some questions.

And, of course, the Democratic takeover now means Robert Mueller has protection. Mr. President, you want to fire him? Okay. The House Democrats can hire him. There’s no getting in Mueller’s way now. There will be no more hearings where Jim Jordan can grandstand sanctimoniously. I mean, he’ll get to do it for the two minutes he has the microphone, but there will be no more smear-Mueller hearings. No dishonest reports. That’s done.

Keep an eye on Nadler. No, not for impeachment. Let’s not start clamoring about impeachment. First, show the American people how corrupt this president, this family, this administration is. That hard work will lay the groundwork for potential impeachment, but realistically, impeachment is a pipe dream. Some 18 or so Republican senators would have to vote to convict. So don’t think about impeachment. Think about exposing their corruption. Nadler is smart and I think will know just how to handle it.

Legislation? Secondary. Nothing the House passes will be considered by the Senate or signed by the president anyway. They can pass some things to signal to the country their priorities, which should and will include voting rights and reform, minimum wage and other legislation for working people, and more on the economy.

Brian Beutler:

But nothing McConnell does can change the fact that Democrats will have real oversight power, the power to obtain Trump’s tax returns, to subpoena executive branch records, and give form and detail to the breathtaking corruption of this administration. They can complete the vetting of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, get inside the books of the Trump organization, and devote good faith and resources to a real, truth-seeking Russia investigation…

In the legislative realm, Democrats won’t be able to enact the biggest items on the progressive agenda, but they will share budgeting power with Republicans, and thus be able to secure certain objectives and protect programs Republicans want to destroy. Obamacare repeal is dead, as is Trump’s ambition to build a wall along the southern border. Republicans won’t be able to pay for their 2017 corporate tax cut with Medicaid funding. Social Security is safe again.

But where they can’t force their will on Republicans, Democrats will be able to compete with Trump’s megaphone in a way that was unavailable to them these past two years. Control of the House floor will give Democrats agenda-setting power, and they can thus force Trump to answer for his opposition to popular priorities like a minimum wage increase and public infrastructure spending, rather than watch helplessly as he distracts the public from his serial governing failures with scapegoating and racist incitement. Unfortunately his answer to these kinds of provocations may be to foment more international crises, and if he does, Senate Republicans will be on the hook for them, because in many arenas of foreign affairs, only concerted, bipartisan legislative action can wrest control from the president.

The magnitude of the coming political change is extraordinary in large measure because Republicans turned the legislature into a kind of protection racket for the president. More than abdicate their constitutional obligations, they abused their power in ways that will make proper oversight feel revolutionary. The lurch back toward proper checks and balances will be whiplash inducing, but we will really just be taking baby steps back toward standards of ethics and normalcy that people resent Trump and his enablers for trampling. And though true justice for all of Trump’s depredations will remain out of reach for now, poetic justice has arrived.

Andrew Prokop:

The most imminent consequence of a Democratic House takeover is that there will be investigations galore. Democrats now have the power to make Trump’s life hell.

In August, Republicans were already supremely worried about this prospect. “Winter is coming,” one Trump ally told the Washington Post. Should the Democrats win the House, the source continued, “The White House will be under siege.”

That same month, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported that congressional Republicans had compiled a lengthy, unsettling list of possible topics that a new Democratic majority could investigate. “These demands would turn the Trump White House into a 24/7 legal defense operation,” Swan wrote.

Indeed, the majorities in congressional committees have the ability to approve subpoenas: to demand documents or in-person testimony. And through the first two years of Trump’s administration, Democrats have been immensely frustrated that Republican majorities have been distinctly uninterested in investigating a great deal of seeming malfeasance.

For instance, the GOP had no interest in getting ahold of Trump’s tax returns or digging into how his business might be inappropriately intermingled with the presidency. They didn’t care much about a host of ethics and corruption scandals involving administration officials like Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russian interference into the election seemed designed mainly to protect Trump.

Democrats will surely use their subpoena power to change all this, aiming it at executive branch agencies, top Trump agency officials, and the Trump business. Just for a start:

  • House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) made it clear when he was in the minority that he wanted to open a more aggressive Russia investigation.
  • House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) could well try to get Trump’s tax returns.
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) could investigate Trump’s Saudi Arabia policy in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
  • House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will be on the lookout for inappropriate interference with the Justice Department.

These investigations can really matter — as we saw after Republicans won the House under President Obama. The new GOP majority’s much-mocked, seemingly endless series of investigations into the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks eventually surfaced some information that proved very useful to them: that Hillary Clinton had used a private email server for her work as secretary of state. The ensuing scandal dogged her campaign and may have doomed it. Democrats could well find a similar political cudgel.

Even if they don’t, the investigation process itself will be grueling for the Trump administration as they spend countless hours attempting to respond to congressional demands and top staffers are hit with legal bills. Trump may well fight back too, by trying to assert executive power to defy these investigations.

So, yeah, hooray for democratic norms, Congressional oversight, and rule-of-law.  It’s not going to be easy.  But having a party in favor of these things running the House is very, very, very good for America.

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