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Split Decision: Democrats Take House, GOP Retains Senate

Split Decision: Democrats Take House, GOP Retains Senate

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By John Ubaldi
Columnist, In Homeland Security

In the most contentious and consequential midterm elections in recent memory, the American people rendered a split decision. The Democrats flipped the House of Representatives, giving them the majority for the first time since 2010. On the other side of the Capitol, the Republicans increased their majority in the Senate.

A few races are still too close to call, including the Montana and Arizona Senate contests. But the Republicans are slightly ahead in both red states. If the GOP candidates win, there would be an additional Senate seat from Montana and a retained GOP seat from Arizona.

For months, we have been hearing about a “blue wave” that would sweep Democrats back into power – replicating the defeat Republicans inflicted on Democrats in 2010. However, instead of a wave it was more of a ripple – reflecting the historical trend that, since 1862, the party controlling the White House loses an average of 32 House seats during the midterm elections.

How Will Democrats Use Their Power?

The Democratic win in the House of Representatives gives Democrats subpoena power to open various investigations into Donald Trump and his administration, their rallying cry during the campaign season.

It’s been suggested that various House committees under new Democratic leadership might investigate the administration’s family-separation policy and the 15,000 troops Trump ordered to the U.S. southern border to prevent the migrant caravan from Central America from entering the United States.

Potential Democrat Investigations

Likely incoming Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), has given a sampling of the list his committee might investigate:

  • White House security clearances (involving Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and others)
  • The controversial addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.
  • The Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban
  • The State Department’s decision to close its cyber office
  • The EPA’s use of a political loyalty list
  • The possible participation of Cambridge Analytica’s foreign employees in U.S. elections
  • The deadly ambush in Niger that left four American soldiers dead
  • The use of private email by White House officials
  • Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico
  • The Trump Foundation
  • Potential conflicts of interest between Kushner’s business interests and his foreign policy advice
  • Payments the Trump Organization has received from foreign sources
  • Russian intervention in the states’ voting systems
  • Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s contacts with foreign officials

Some Democrats Want to Legislate not Investigate

However, not all Democrats are on board with the rush to investigate President Trump and his administration. For example, former Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell told Fox News: “It’s okay to investigate, investigate, investigate – as long as we spend the majority of our time legislating, legislating, legislating. If we do so, it will ensure Democratic control of the House will well endure beyond the next two years.”

Will Pelosi Return as House Speaker?

The big question is will the Democrats again select Nancy Pelosi as the next House Speaker or will they choose a more moderate speaker who represents the heartland of the nation and not just the blue coasts?

The current House Democratic leadership has been in charge for a long time. Will they change the old guard or retain the same leaders they have had for years? That question will undoubtedly affect their public policy agenda. Many moderate Democrats who won in suburban districts will face this dilemma because they campaigned on selecting a new speaker if the Democrats regained the House.

What Are the Democrats’ Public Policy Objectives?        

On Election Day, House Minority Leader Pelosi articulated a vision in which, as reported on Fox News, a Democratic House majority would “stop the GOP and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s assault on Medicare and Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and the health care of 130 million Americans living with pre-existing medical conditions.”

Pelosi said her aim is to work for ordinary Americans by creating affordable health care, increasing workers’ wages, and focusing the nation’s infrastructure to “create more good-paying jobs, (rebuild) roads, bridges schools, water systems, broadband networks, schools and housing and beyond.”

Many progressive Democrats ran on a platform of Medicare for all, raising taxes, a guaranteed federal job, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, free college education, eliminating student debt and a host of other free federal programs. However, will the Democrats try to pass this assortment of legislation while remaining vague on the financial costs? If they do, gridlock awaits.

Will Democrats Work with Trump and Vice Versa?

Will Democrats work with President Trump on the big issues facing the country? For the most part, Democrats have not focused on the incoming caravan of migrant refugees from Central America; they were almost eerily silent on the issue.

It will also be interesting to see how the Democrats handle the federal budget. Constitutionally, all appropriation bills must originate in the House, but will House Democrats work with the President on crafting a budget, or will we return to the Obama era when the House and Senate could only pass continuing resolutions to keep the government open?

The fallout from the 2018 midterm elections will carry over into the 2020 presidential election. That contest effectively begins today.

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