Will House fight back?

Cal­i­for­nia mem­bers in a po­si­tion to tackle in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Trump

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Casey Tolan ctolan@ba­yare­anews­group.com

Pres­i­dent Trump has called Max­ine Wa­ters “an ex­traor­di­nar­ily low IQ per­son.” He’s tarred Adam Schiff as “the leakin’ mon­ster of no con­trol.” And he’s tweeted at­tacks on Nancy Pelosi more than 50 times since tak­ing of­fice, paint­ing her as an ex­trem­ist set on open­ing Amer­ica’s borders and bleed­ing busi­nesses dry with taxes.

Now, af­ter Democrats wrested back con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Tues­day night, Wa­ters, Schiff, Pelosi and other Cal­i­for­nia mem­bers of Congress are in a po­si­tion to make Trump squirm.

Pelosi is likely to be the next Speaker of the House — sec­ond in line to re­place Trump in the Oval Of­fice — while Wa­ters, the 14-term Los An­ge­les con­gress­woman, will likely chair the House Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, and Schiff, who also rep­re­sents Los An­ge­les, is poised to lead the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

They’re likely to make the big­gest splash with in­ves­ti­ga­tions, ex­er­cis­ing their new sub­poena power to ex­am­ine ev­ery­thing from Trump’s per­sonal tax re­turns to ac­cu­sa­tions of col­lu­sion with Rus­sia to scan­dals within his cabi­net. The Repub­li­can-dom-

inated Congress has mostly avoided tough in­quiries of the ad­min­is­tra­tion over the last two years, and the pres­i­dent could be in for a rude awak­en­ing.

Still, Democrats have cam­paigned on poli­cies like in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment and re­duc­ing pre­scrip­tion drug prices, ar­eas in which they could find some com­pro­mise with Trump. In an in­ter­view with the Bay Area News Group this week­end, Pelosi said her cau­cus wouldn’t pur­sue the same ob­struc­tion­ist strat­egy that Repub­li­cans took against Pres­i­dent Barack Obama af­ter they won con­trol of Congress, suc­cess­fully block­ing many of his pol­icy plat­forms and ap­pointees.

“When I was speaker and Ge­orge Bush was pres­i­dent, we worked on many is­sues to­gether,” Pelosi said. She called Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion to Obama “un-Amer­i­can.”

But she vowed to “stand our ground for what we be­lieve in,” and “re­store the Con­sti­tu­tion’s checks and bal­ances to the ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

In a com­bat­ive post­elec­tion news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day, Trump see­sawed be­tween paeans to bi­par­ti­san­ship, prais­ing Pelosi as some­one who “works very hard,” and threats, sug­gest­ing that Democrats launch­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions of his ad­min­is­tra­tion would lead to “a war­like pos­ture.”

His re­la­tion­ship with the party saw an early bump in the road when the pres­i­dent un­ex­pect­edly fired At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions Wed­nes­day, with Pelosi say­ing in a tweet that it was im­pos­si­ble to read the move “as any­thing other than an­other bla­tant at­tempt by Pres­i­dent Trump to un­der­mine & end Spe­cial Coun­sel (Robert) Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Pass­ing leg­is­la­tion to de­fend Mueller and his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian col­lu­sion from at­tempts by Trump to fire him could be an early pri­or­ity for a Demo­cratic-led In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. Schiff said in a tweet that “Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the in­de­pen­dence of the DOJ must be pro­tected.”

In the Bay Area, Rep. Zoe Lof­gren of San Jose is ex­pected to chair the Sub­com­mit­tee on Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Se­cu­rity as well as the Com­mit­tee on House Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which han­dles leg­is­la­tion about fed­eral elec­tions. That could put her at the cen­ter of de­bates over vot­ing rights and im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

Lof­gren vowed in an in­ter­view Tues­day to work on is­sues like pro­tect­ing young un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants, ban­ning fam­ily sep­a­ra­tions at the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, and re­form­ing the H-1B visas for highly skilled im­mi­grant work­ers. The con­tro­ver­sial pro­posal from some lib­eral Democrats to abol­ish the Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment Agency, on the other hand, is “not even on the agenda, ex­cept in the fan­tasies of Repub­li­cans,” she said.

On the ad­min­is­tra­tion com­mit­tee, she plans to hold hear­ings about the in­flu­ence of dark money on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics and will try to ad­vance leg­is­la­tion about ger­ry­man­der­ing and dis­clo­sure of po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions, whether or not Trump backs it.

“You can never pre­dict with cer­tainty what a pres­i­dent will do,” she said. “Es­pe­cially this pres­i­dent.”

An­other top pri­or­ity for Democrats is an in-the­works data pri­vacy leg­is­la­tion dubbed the In­ter­net Bill of Rights. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Santa Clara, whom Pelosi tasked with de­vel­op­ing the leg­is­la­tion, said he ex­pected to in­tro­duce the bill within the first 100 days of next year.

“It’s not go­ing to be one big piece of leg­is­la­tion — my guess is it’ll be piece­meal,” Khanna, who rep­re­sents a chunk of Sil­i­con Val­ley, said in an in­ter­view.

Khanna pre­dicted that the newly strength­ened Demo­cratic cau­cus would pass am­bi­tious pro­gres­sive leg­is­la­tion, from a $15 min­i­mum wage to a mas­sive green en­ergy jobs pack­age to some ver­sion of Medi­care for all. Even though it’s likely such poli­cies would get shot down by the Se­nate or ve­toed by Trump, they could shape the de­bate in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, which is ex­pected to at­tract a long list of can­di­dates, he said.

The House will be­come “a lab­o­ra­tory for ideas, the in­tel­lec­tual force for the party” over the next two years, Khanna said. “It’s go­ing to be a place where you can re­ally shape the pro­gres­sive move­ment.”

Still, Pelosi will be forced to bal­ance a va­ri­ety of de­mands in the cau­cus, in­clud­ing the tin­der­box pro­posal of im­peach­ing Trump — some­thing that ap­peals to Demo­cratic ac­tivists and some pro­gres­sive mem­bers but that she has worked hard to play down.

One of the first tests of how far left the Demo­cratic cau­cus will turn comes later this month in the party’s lead­er­ship elec­tions. Rep. Bar­bara Lee of Oak­land — one of the most pro­gres­sive mem­bers of the House — is hop­ing to win the party’s fourth high­est lead­er­ship spot in the cham­ber, com­pet­ing with Rep. Linda Sanchez of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

And while Pelosi has ex­uded con­fi­dence that she’ll win the speak­er­ship, she has only a nar­row mar­gin for er­ror; sev­eral of the House can­di­dates who won of­fice Tues­day had vowed on the cam­paign trail not to back her, and she has crit­ics among the cur­rently elected Democrats as well.

Trump, who has pre­vi­ously talked about how Pelosi hurts her party’s na­tional ap­peal, tweeted Wed­nes­day that she “de­serves to be cho­sen Speaker of the House” and sug­gested that if Democrats “give her a hard time, per­haps we will add some Repub­li­can votes.”

Pelosi said in the in­ter­view that her pitch to Democrats is sim­ple.

“None of us are in­dis­pens­able, but some of us are just bet­ter at what we do,” she said. “And I think that that’s my case.”


House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day.

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