Democrats’ wish list as they as­sume power in the House

The Mercury News Weekend - - OTHER VIEWS - By E. J. Dionne Jr. E. J. Dionne is a Washington Post columnist.

WASHINGTON » In­com­ing Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to be clear about what the new Demo­cratic House ma­jor­ity will not be: They will not, she in­sists, act like the Repub­li­cans.

“We be­lieve that we will not become them,” she said in a New Year’s Day phone in­ter­view dur­ing a visit to her na­tive Bal­ti­more. “We’re not go­ing to do to them what they did to Pres­i­dent Obama. … It’s re­ally im­por­tant for us not to become them and cer­tainly not to become like the pres­i­dent of the United States in terms of how he speaks with­out any ba­sis of fact, ev­i­dence, data or truth.

“We will re­spect each other’s opin­ions, and re­spect the truth.” Note: She said this be­fore Pres­i­dent Trump’s series of false claims in ad­vance of his Wed­nes­day meet­ing with con­gres­sional lead­ers about the gov­ern­ment shut­down he pre­cip­i­tated in pur­suit of his bor­der wall.

Pelosi also pushes back hard against the idea that in hold­ing Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­count­able, Democrats will be en­gag­ing in some sort of in­ves­tiga­tive orgy. On the con­trary, she said, Ar­ti­cle I of the Con­sti­tu­tion grants Congress re­spon­si­bil­ity for “over­sight over the agen­cies of gov­ern­ment.”

She adds point­edly: “We don’t want the ad­min­is­tra­tion de­scrib­ing the tra­di­tional con­gres­sional re­spon­si­bil­ity for over­sight to be la­beled ‘in­ves­ti­ga­tion.’ There may be some in­ves­ti­ga­tions that spring from an­other pur­pose, but we will be strate­gic and not po­lit­i­cal when it comes to that.”

The Democrats’ as­sump­tion of power in the House this week will al­ter Amer­i­can pol­i­tics in other ways.

While the two dozen or so po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates will be cast as the ul­ti­mate ar­biters of what Democrats will choose to stand for in 2020, the agenda Pelosi and her col­leagues put for­ward could play an unusu­ally large role in shap­ing how the na­tion sees the al­ter­na­tives to Trump­ism.

The woman who will re­turn as speaker af­ter an eightyear ab­sence sounded al­most glee­ful in dis­cussing the planks in the House plat­form.

At the top of the list is a sweep­ing po­lit­i­cal re­form pack­age linked to a new Vot­ing Rights Act. Tak­ing on the “spe­cial in­ter­ests,” she said, will “give peo­ple con­fi­dence” in the rest of the Demo­cratic wish list that in­cludes work­force train­ing, “build­ing the in­fra­struc­ture of Amer­ica in a green way” and ex­pand­ing health cov­er­age by strength­en­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The House’s first or­der of busi­ness is re­open­ing the gov­ern­ment. The House plans to pass a series of spend­ing bills that have al­ready been ap­proved by the Repub­li­can Se­nate. A sep­a­rate bill would ex­tend ex­ist­ing fund­ing for the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity (where any money for a wall-like thing would re­side) to al­low a month of ne­go­ti­a­tion.

“If they re­ject this,” she says of the prospect that Se­nate Repub­li­cans will re­ject their own bills, “it would be highly ir­re­spon­si­ble, and it would be a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the pres­i­dent of the United States mak­ing fools of them.”

Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, of course, may pre­fer that to be­ing at­tacked by Trump. This is what Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., sug­gested Wed­nes­day in say­ing he’d re­ject any House bills that Trump wouldn’t sign. Still, her swipe re­flected the tena­cious ap­proach to ne­go­ti­at­ing her sup­port­ers’ prize.

And then there’s the other side of Pelosi, who ended our con­ver­sa­tion by declar­ing, “We want Amer­ica’s heart to be full of love as we go for­ward.”

A de­light­ful thought. But for Trump, it will be tough love.

JOSE LUIS MA­G­ANA — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has plans that in­clude a new Vot­ing Rights Act, an ex­panded Af­ford­able Care Act, work­force train­ing and green in­fra­struc­ture.

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