A new era of di­vided govern­ment be­gins

The Week (US) - - News -

What hap­pened

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

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