A new era of divided government begins
The 116th Congress was gaveled into order last week, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years and a historically diverse class of Democratic freshmen vowing to challenge President Trump. After being elected as House speaker for the second time, Nancy Pelosi said that voters had “demanded a new dawn” in the November midterms, and promised that the chamber would work “for the people.” She said Democrats would use their 36-seat majority to lower health-care costs, protect “Dreamers”—undocumented immigrants brought to America as children—and “increase paychecks by rebuilding America with green and modern infrastructure from sea to shining sea.” Pelosi also vowed to “restore integrity to government,” but resisted calls by members of her caucus to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump. (See Talking Points.) Signaling a new era of divided and deadlocked government, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber—where Republicans hold a 53-47 edge—wouldn’t consider any House bills opposed by the president.
The swearing-in ceremony for the new Congress included many historic firsts. A record 102 women were seated in the House—89 of them Democrats, 13 Republicans—and 25 in the Senate. The incoming Democrats include the first two Muslim women—Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar—and the first Native American women, Reps. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland. The new Congress also boasts a record number of Hispanic lawmakers (45), Asian-Americans (17), and African-Americans (55).
What the editorials said
We’ve got a long way to go before women make up 50 percent of our legislators, said the Los Angeles Times, but their increase in number is “worth celebrating.” Studies show women govern more collaboratively than men and are more likely to focus on issues such as health care, child care, and education. “A move in those directions would be welcome.” Plus, democracy works best “when it actually represents all its people, not just a lucky elite.”
Nobody should “expect a new era of progress in Washington,” said The Wall Street Journal. Democrats ran on one issue in 2018—“rejecting Trump and all his works”—so the goal of the new House “will be investigating, not legislating.” Get set for hearings on everything from Trump’s tax returns to his alleged payments to Stormy Daniels, and even Ivanka Trump’s and Jared Kushner’s email habits. “House Democrats will trail every Cabinet officer down to whether he ordered a cocktail on a commercial flight.”
What the columnists said
House Democrats should hold hearings—and hold the administration accountable, said Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg.com. But they have to do it “the right way” and not “chase nutty conspiracy theories” as Republicans did under President Barack Obama. Democrats have to be the adults in the room and “focus on the main goal of helping the government function properly, rather than get carried away with scoring political points.” The first day of Congress left me optimistic, said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. After two years of Trumpian “anger, invective, insults,” it was a joy to hear Pelosi speak of the need for bipartisanship and praise the “idealism and patriotism of this transformative Freshman Class.” I could be wrong, but it felt like the “beginning of the end of Trump and Trumpism.”
Actually, all Democrats did on Day One was launch “an extreme agenda” that’s dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate, said Jenna Ellis in WashingtonExaminer.com. They passed a spending bill that would allow taxpayer dollars to once again flow to NGOs that promote or perform abortions overseas, and “some Democrats in the House filed impeachment papers.” These “petulant and childish” actions are evidence of the gridlock to come.
The new, young Democrats will soon realize that “control of the House isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” said Matthew Continetti in NationalReview.com. For all their enthusiasm, talk of leftist dream projects like a Green New Deal and “Medicare for all,” Washington, D.C., still runs on the “inescapable reality of power.” And with a Republican president and GOP-controlled Senate, Pelosi and her caucus “don’t really have it.” That disconnect leaves Pelosi “in the same situation as John Boehner, who became speaker after the Tea Party election in 2010. And no one envied Boehner.”
Pelosi and House Democratic women