We won! So, what’s next for House Democrats?

Daily Southtown - - OPINION - By Raja Kr­ish­namoor­thi

Vot­ers across the United States made a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion Tues­day to put Democrats in charge of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. This is the first time since 2010 that Democrats have been en­trusted with a House ma­jor­ity.

The ques­tion now is what Democrats should do with this new re­spon­si­bil­ity.

What we should not do is to re­act like Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Mitch McCon­nell did on the cusp of the Repub­li­can wave of 2010. McCon­nell fa­mously an­nounced that his top pri­or­ity was to en­sure Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s fail­ure. As a party, and for our coun­try, Democrats must do bet­ter than that.

The Repub­li­can Party re­mains in con­trol of both the U.S. Se­nate and the White House for the next two years. This means that in or­der to de­liver on our prom­ises, Democrats can and should find po­ten­tial ar­eas of agree­ment with our Repub­li­can col­leagues and Pres­i­dent Donald Trump.

When they had to­tal con­trol of the fed­eral govern­ment dur­ing the past two years, Repub­li­cans fo­cused on a highly par­ti­san agenda of re­peal­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act and pass­ing a huge tax cut whose ben­e­fits flowed over­whelm­ingly to spe­cial in­ter­ests and the very wealthy. Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans did not seek nor ob­tain Demo­cratic votes for ei­ther of th­ese mea­sures be­cause they didn’t need the votes. (Nev­er­the­less, re­peal of Oba­macare did fail due to op­po­si­tion from a hand­ful of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, in­clud­ing the late John McCain.)

Con­trast this with last year’s bi­par­ti­san ef­fort to re­write the fed­eral law gov­ern­ing skills­based ed­u­ca­tion, also known as ca­reer and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion, which had not been re­vised since 2006. The bill, which I in­tro­duced with my Repub­li­can col­league G.T. Thomp­son of Penn­syl­va­nia, passed both houses of Congress unan­i­mously and was signed into law by the pres­i­dent in a bi­par­ti­san cer­e­mony. This means mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who don’t a at­tend four-year col­lege will still have the chance to ob­tain the skills and knowl­edge to build a pros­per­ous ca­reer and live a mid­dle-class life.

There are sev­eral ar­eas where sim­i­lar bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion is pos­si­ble over the next two years. High atop that list is re­build­ing our na­tion’s crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture. Pres­i­dent Trump cam­paigned on that is­sue in 2016, but he largely aban­doned it in pur­suit of a more par­ti­san agenda. The new House Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity should en­cour­age the pres­i­dent to revisit it. A lon­gover­due in­vest­ment in our roads, bridges, air­ports and other cap­i­tal needs would pro­duce mil­lions of jobs while strength­en­ing our na­tional econ­omy for the long term.

A sec­ond area for co­op­er­a­tion is im­prov­ing our health care sys­tem. With a Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity in the House, fu­ture Repub­li­can ef­forts to re­peal Oba­macare are doomed to fail­ure. The new Congress should turn in­stead to re­duc­ing health care costs and pro­tect­ing ac­cess for more Amer­i­cans. One po­ten­tial pur­suit is bring­ing down the high cost of pre­scrip­tion drugs. Pres­i­dent Trump has iden­ti­fied this as a per­sonal pri­or­ity. Per­haps this could be com­bined with an ef­fort to strengthen health care in ar­eas that have been plagued by mul­ti­ple hospi­tal clos­ings in re­cent years.

While we look for op­por­tu­ni­ties for bi­par­ti­san co­op­er­a­tion, the newly Demo­cratic House must be will­ing to do its duty un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion — even in the face of Pres­i­dent Trump and Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion. As a mem­ber of the House Over­sight and Govern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee for the past two years, I have been frus­trated with the House GOP’s re­fusal to per­form the con­sti­tu­tional role of Congress as a check and bal­ance on the ex­ec­u­tive branch. From the down­graded top-se­cret se­cu­rity clear­ance of Jared Kush­ner, Pres­i­dent Donald Trump’s sonin-law and White House ad­viser, to eth­i­cal lapses in var­i­ous ex­ec­u­tive agen­cies, ev­i­dence of po­ten­tial cor­rup­tion and self­deal­ing needs to be ex­plored. Per­haps, in the new world of a split Congress, some Repub­li­can col­leagues will join in a se­ri­ous and re­spon­si­ble ef­fort at over­sight.

Let me be clear: I be­lieve an im­me­di­ate move by the new House to im­peach the pres­i­dent would be a mis­take. We should al­low spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller to com­plete his in­ves­ti­ga­tion and re­view the results and rec­om­men­da­tions to de­ter­mine ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion. One thing the new, Demo­crat-led House should do from day one is to pro­tect that in­ves­ti­ga­tion and end the highly par­ti­san ef­forts to un­der­mine or dis­credit it.

While we await the con­clu­sion of the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the busi­ness of the coun­try must go for­ward. This week’s elec­tion results pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity for a Wash­ing­ton re­set. If Pres­i­dent Trump is the deal-maker he claims to be, now is the time to look for those ar­eas where we can find agree­ment. Let’s demon­strate that Wash­ing­ton can put par­ti­san­ship aside and de­liver some wins for Amer­i­cans.

Raja Kr­ish­namoor­thi, D-Schaum­burg, rep­re­sents the 8th Con­gres­sional District of Illi­nois, which in­cludes Chicago’s west and north­west sub­urbs. He was re­elected to a sec­ond term Tues­day.

MARK WIL­SON/GETTY

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