Commentary: We won! So, what’s next for House Democrats?
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 skills-based 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 long-overdue 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 son-in-law and White House adviser, to ethical lapses in various executive agencies, evidence of potential corruption and self-dealing 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 re-elected to a second term Tuesday.
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