What A Democratic House Would Mean

[ Posted Thursday, August 9th, 2018 – 17:09 UTC ]

Representative Devin Nunes, at a rally for a Republican House leader, let slip the real reason Republicans want to hang onto control of the House -- because if the Democrats win, his committee (and others like it) will no longer be under GOP control. Which would mean investigative and governmental oversight committees would return to doing the job they are supposed to be doing -- investigating possible wrongdoing and overseeing the Trump administration to discover exactly what they're up to (and how much of it is actually illegal).

Nunes is right, and he's right to be worried about such a prospect. Because there are two practical things that would happen if Democrats do take back control of the House in November. The House would pass bills that Democrats want to see enacted into law, and they would begin investigating Trump in earnest.

Taking the latter one first, when the House majority changes, it means control of all the committees and subcommittees also changes party. The seniormost (or "ranking") Democrat on all the various committees would become the chairperson, unless the new speaker of the House shuffles the assignments a bit. But whether by the ranking member or by someone else, all the House committees would be run by Democrats for the next two years, starting in January.

Chairing an investigative or oversight committee means having the power to: (1) decide what is worth investigating, and (2) decide how to investigate it. To put this another way, House committees won't be investigating things like Benghazi or Hillary Clinton's emails anymore, instead they will turn to more recent subjects, most of which will involve Donald Trump in some fashion.

Congressional committees have the power to subpoena, which means they can compel testimony from just about anyone, and produce documents and other records that the Republicans have been ignoring. Documents are then routinely leaked to the media, which would likely mean we'd all finally get a look at Donald Trump's tax returns. What has he been so scared of everyone seeing in them? We'd likely get an answer to that fairly quickly.

Trump himself is a juicy target, since he manages to create multiple scandals within a single week's time. In fact, it be hard to decide which Trump scandal would be worth investigating first, because of the sheer volume of them. Equally important, however, would be the power to investigate Trump's minions, whether in his cabinet or of lower rank. They've been up to all sorts of mischief, and only a handful of them have been fired for what used to be blatant and obvious firing offenses. All of that would need looking into by the Democratically-led House committees.

It's worth mentioning that Republicans have, in the past few years, burned the bridges of bipartisanship on all of these committees. Having people like Nunes and Trey Gowdy in charge has poisoned the well so much that Democrats will not be inclined to pay the slightest attention to the yowling of Republicans upset at what is being investigated or who is being questioned. They made their bed, and so will have to lie in it, in other words.

Having Democrats in control of the House would mean it would return to its constitutional duty of being a check and a balance on the executive branch. Indeed, if the Democrats do take back the House, it will in large part be because many voters want for this to happen. One-party control of the House, the Senate, and the White House is always looked at askance by the American public, no matter which party is in charge. This is the reason why midterms are usually so devastating for the party in power, in fact.

While all these investigations will be grist for the liberal mill, the House has another big function to achieve -- passing bills. Sidestepping the question of who will be speaker (whether Nancy Pelosi fends off any challengers or not), if Democrats are in control then the bills passed will all be part of the Democratic agenda, for the most part.

This, of course, will only go so far. Even if the blue wave is big enough to hand control of the Senate to Democrats (which is a very remote possibility), they will still have to contend with the legislative filibuster and with a Republican president with veto power. So no matter how many good bills a Democratic House passes, few of them are going to be signed into law (at least, in the exact form that they pass the House). This would be true even with a Democratic president, in fact. Nancy Pelosi, when she last led the House, passed hundreds and hundreds of bills that went over to the Senate and then died (either by filibuster or by Harry Reid not calling a vote) -- and that was with Democrats in control of the Senate.

Even so, what the House passes will be important for two reasons. The first is that it will put pressure on Senate Republicans to act on any number of issues that they've been completely ignoring. The 2020 election cycle for Senate Republicans is a lot less favorable to their party (all senators elected in the midterm year 2014 will be up for re-election, meaning Republicans will be defending a lot more seats than they have had to in the 2018 cycle). If a blue wave election does occur this year, Republican senators in either swing states or blue states are going to get increasingly nervous about their prospects for re-election. They'll be much more inclined to distance themselves from Trump, to put this another way. A Democratic House sending wildly popular bills over to the Senate is going to increase the pressure on them to act and to show some independence from Trump.

Even if nothing much makes it unscathed out of the Senate, having a Democratic House actively passing legislation will also be important for another big reason -- a purely political one. The House will get to define for the public the Democratic agenda and list of priorities in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. If they pass bill after bill containing good ideas that the public overwhelmingly supports (which is what they did the last time they were in control), then the list of such accomplishments will become the de facto Democratic platform for 2020. It'll be easy for Democrats to show the public what they're for, because all they'll have to do is point to the list of things a Democratic House has accomplished. The messaging is easy: "Want to see all those become reality? Elect more Democrats."

Of course, there's a third reason Democrats would be overjoyed to take back the House. Watching Donald Trump's head explode with angst isn't a big political or legislative goal, but it sure would be fun to watch, wouldn't it? Getting (as Barack Obama put it) "shellacked" in a midterm is a sobering experience for any president, but they usually manage to cope with it without throwing a tantrum or a hissy fit. However, Donald Trump is not a normal president. So there's that to look forward to, as well.

The midterm elections are still three months away. Anything can happen in politics in that space of time, so who knows what the big subject of the day will be the week before the public votes? However, if nothing much changes in the public's attitude, then Democrats are quite likely to have a very good year. They're still not a shoo-in to take back even the House, but at this point it is looking more likely than not that they will. Which is why I thought it was worth exploring what a Democratic House would look like -- not as a prediction, mind you, but as a solid possibility. Practically, it would mean Trump would get some serious oversight. Politically, it would mean Democrats have the chance to lay out their legislative agenda to the public in advance of the 2020 presidential election. And personally, we'd all get to see how Trump takes a big political defeat. From where I sit, all of those things are well worth looking forward to.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


31 Comments on “What A Democratic House Would Mean”

  1. [1] 
    neilm wrote:

    For me, I'd like to see the smirk knocked off the kids' faces with some subpoenas on subjects such as the Russian meetings, the real-estate deals(especially Trump Soho - I'd really like to see the details they've hidden about that), deals involving foreign government funding, etc.

  2. [2] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    What would there be to wonder about? All you've gotta do is recall the days of Barney Frank, the guy who (along with Chris Dodd) did more than anybody in congress to bring about the housing bubble, by pressuring Fannie and Freddy and the banks to buy sub-prime loans when he thought that the fact that house prices "never decline" would permit people with bad credit to become homeowners and thereby join the "middle class".

  3. [3] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    China granting a $500,000,000 loan for a Trump project days before he announces he will save Chinese phone maker ZTE from being run out of business because of penalties they faced. Sadly with this administration’s daily hijinks, this story barely made a blip on the nation’s radar.

    Sadly, Trump fails to mention when he brags about the number of jobs that he has saved is that the vast majority of those jobs are in China!

    As for the investigations that the Dems will open on Trump, you can bet that will lead to Trump offering to sign Democratic legislation into law in exchange for better outcomes!

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Watching Donald Trump's head explode with angst isn't a big political or legislative goal, but it sure would be fun to watch, wouldn't it?

    Anybody else think it would likely resemble a giant leathery balloon bursting, a steaming whoosh of hot air rising, a carcass identical to "Fat Bastard" toppling over, with the only thing left standing being the orange rodent that heretofore functioned as a hairpiece?

  5. [5] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    So many possibilities if the Dems retake the house. Certainly, the prospect of frog-marching some of the dodgier characters of Trump's orbit back before committee's with teeth would make for toe-curling drama. Also, a couple of years of watching Trump descend even deeper into insanity via apoplectic conspiracy peddling, appeals to me...Being English, I think it's much funnier to observe how both Trump's supporters, and detractors alike, deal with his buffoonery.

    The downside to the Dems assuming the mortgage is, Trump will have a full 22 or so months to sell his impending failures as left-wing obstructionism, and thus gain momentum for his one true goal...his own re-election.
    Trump isn't exactly a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. He's nutter, wrapped in a delusion, inside a cretin. It's apparent to even a casual observer that Trump thinks this is his world and we are merely squatters.

    Two words...Space Force.

    Ok, fair enough, why not indeed. Except of course, America has all but washed it's hands, for the time being, of all things 'space.' America relies on Ruskie rockets to get its contingent to and fro the ISS! Now Trump's imagination encompasses some kind of 'Moonraker-esk' future where, no doubt, a group of super humans, with coiffed, straw-like blond hair, retire to the heavens to look down. with contempt, on the wretched below.

    If Elon Musk wants to fire another dummy into the inky vastness of space, I vote we suggest Trump for the task...he can reconnoiter for 'Trump Space Station and Grill'


  6. [6] 
    neilm wrote:

    As an aside, there was an interesting research paper from Pew. The results were analyzed in a WaPo article.

    Basically the younger, poorer, and browner eligible voters stayed at home losing the electoral college for Hillary.

  7. [7] 
    neilm wrote:
  8. [8] 
    neilm wrote:

    For the right wing readers who can't understand reality, here is a link to a flat-earther conference article that is more their speed:

  9. [9] 
    neilm wrote:

    Bloody great flat earther article. The loons are getting very sure of themselves.

    Click thru the twitter link form Bob who is asking where the curvature is - the replies are entertaining :)

  10. [10] 
    neilm wrote:

    Do the flat earthers think we need a space force?

  11. [11] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    If some omniscient being were to establish an ideal political system for his/her republic, it wouldn't even grant the "younger, poorer and browner" population the voting franchise.

    There's a certain inherent irrationality in allowing the non-productive to have any sayso in how we distribute the production of the productive.

    So, it would appear that we're trending that direction sort of by default!!!

  12. [12] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    If some omniscient being were to establish an ideal political system for his/her republic, it wouldn't even grant the "younger, poorer and browner" population the voting franchise.

    So your idea of an 'ideal political system' is both elitist and apartheid?

  13. [13] 
    neilm wrote:

    CRS is in troll mode this morning.

    So younger, poorer, browner people are not productive.


  14. [14] 
    neilm wrote:

    There's a certain inherent irrationality in allowing the non-productive to have any sayso in how we distribute the production of the productive.

    Obviously you are trolling, but didn't you say you were retired and thus non-productive. Like all other retirees?

  15. [15] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    But aren’t those who have retired now defined as being “non-productive”? So you get no say!

  16. [16] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    neilm [14]

    You beat me to it!

  17. [17] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    "an increased turnout of under-30 voters in, say, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan could easily have changed the results of the history."

    Which was exactly the point of the Russian interference: to divide Democrats both ideologically and generationally, to discourage the black and hispanic vote in swing states, and to move younger voters over to third party candidates like Stein and Johnson.

    Republicans in those states backed that up with gerrymandered districts and voter suppression efforts.

    And it worked. More depressingly, it's still working: Green Party candidate Joe Manchik got 1,129 votes in Ohio's 12th the other night - which almost exactly equals the number of votes the Democrat O'Connor needed to win, prompting actress Alyssa Milano to tweet:

    You know what sucks?

    Because of our unwillingness to pass policy that protects our election integrity, I immediately think the Green Party votes tonight are Russian meddling.

    Why else would anyone cast a protest vote in Ohio when there’s so much at stake?#OH12

    — Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) August 8, 2018

    There have been a few institutional fixes proposed, ranging from a ranked-choice voting scheme to setting a higher bar for third party candidates to appear on a ballot, but none of these ideas is expected to be in place nationwide by 2020.

    We have to send one coherent and constant message to our youth and friends on the left: a vote for any third party candidate is a vote for Trump. Period. Full stop.

  18. [18] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    neilm & Listen

    I prefer "EX"-productive!

  19. [19] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    [11] [Not] even grant the "younger, poorer and browner" population the voting franchise.

    Here's the problem, C.R. All those terms are comparatives. Younger than what age? Poorer than what income? Or is the threshold some level of net worth? Browner than whom? You? Or maybe my son's Mexican-origin friend, who has a M.Sci from U. Texas and earns 6 figures a year to design and program Spanish language websites?

    In the early days of the US, in many states, only white male landowners could vote. That didn't last, for very good reasons, beyond a few Amendments and landmark voting legislation.

    Maybe, as you say, your suggestion would work if there were an omniscient being that could process millions of voting approvals simultaneously from individual's personal information, which the Being would know since She, by definition, would be all-knowing. Absent that, it can't work. Period.

    I share more of your concern about the young, poor, and non-white/non-orange people of this country than I would admit in public. But the problem is not their age, income, nor heritage. It's more legitimate to place blame at the door of our education system. In too much of this country, even middle class white kids don't receive decent education in anything, let along civics. What chance do the more disadvantaged have?

  20. [20] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    As I've mentioned before, this election, to me, is the most important of our lifetimes.

    It's worth giving Michael Gerson's column in WaPo last night a read. Spoiler: if you're a Republican who can't vote for the party of Shumer/Pelosi, vote Republican for the Senate, and Democrat for the House.

    We get rid of the threat posed by the breakdown of check and balance in the House, and conservatives get to keep their court appointments and general legislative agenda.

  21. [21] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    Pelosi should retire. Or, take a cue from Joe Crowley, and stand down the turnout machine (DISCLAIMER: conspiracy theory, here) if she could safely lose in the broader interest of the Party. On second thought, that's too risky; she might win in any event. End this paragraph after the first sentence.

    She's been minority leader. She's been Speaker. She put through the landmark legislation of President Obama. She'll go down in history as one of the most effective Speakers. The money she can raise can be matched by organic Silicon Valley contributions.

    It's time for her to go. If she does, it'll be a way bigger wave, because the Republicans will have lost their biggest Boogie-person*. If she stays, sewn to the pincushion, and too many districts go like OH-12 just did, it'll be on her.

    *If anyone wants to impune non-politically correct meaning to this term, well, STFU.

  22. [22] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Balthy (17)-
    People actually vote for Green Party candidates because they consider them a better option than voting for a Democrat, Republican or not voting.

    The Democratic candidate in OH-12 got just about enough votes that if they had gone to the Green Party candidate then the Green Party candidate could have won.

    People cast what Allysa Milano referred to as a protest vote because they want better than the false choice the Democrats are trying to fool them with.

    They realize that continuing to support the two party system that resulted in Trump is a dead end.

    It is telling that your "solutions" are rank choice voting that makes people feel like they are supporting third parties while having their vote changed to the current major parties and making it harder for third parties to get on the ballot instead of expecting the Democrats to run better candidates. The Democrats are not going to convince the people that are not fooled by the you have no other choice argument to vote for Democrats. They know it's a lie.

    A vote for the Democrats is a vote for Trump as it perpetuates the two party system that put him in office in the first place.

  23. [23] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    LeaningBlue [21]

    I’m not so sure. Pelosi is an incredible task master for the Democrats when they need votes on legislation. I think the Dems should point out that the Republicans cannot run on their policies but instead have to create the image of a scary liberal she-beast (all 5’5” of her) to battle in order to get votes.

    One of my favorite stories about Pelosi came from an article her daughter wrote about George W. Bush. In the article she described how after her mom won the Speaker of the House position, Bush left her a note telling her how proud of her mother he was. Bush said that he had tried to convince Pelosi years earlier that she needed to switch parties because she was just what the Republican Party needed. It was a very sweet letter that the president did not have to write, but that he wanted Pelosi’s daughter to know how impressive her mother was in his eyes. It’s one of my favorite GW Bush stories, too.

  24. [24] 
    neilm wrote:

    Biden: Did you ever find the April Fools plan for a Space Force I put in the Oval Office?

    Obama: No Joe.

    Biden: Uh-oh ... nobody could be that stupid, right?

  25. [25] 
    neilm wrote:

    neilm & Listen

    I prefer "EX"-productive!


    How about ex-voter? ;)

  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:

    Anybody who's been following the Manafort trial might be interested to know that the banker at Federal Savings Bank that Manafort rolled for multiple millions and a promise of a cushy job was named by Trump to his Economic Advisory Council on August 5, 2016. Yes, Manafort was still his campaign chairman at the time. That's what we call a "quid pro quo"… and "bribery." Pity that. ;)


    1. Tom Barrack. Thomas J Barrack Jr. is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Colony Capital, NYSE (CLNY). Colony is one of the oldest and most well-recognized private equity firms in the world. Prior to forming Colony, Mr. Barrack was a Principal of the Robert M. Bass Group and had served in the Regan administration as a Deputy Undersecretary of Interior.

    2. Andy Beal. Beal is the founder and chairman of Beal Bank and Beal Bank USA as well as other affiliated companies including, CSG Investments, Inc., Loan Acquisition Corporation, and CLG Hedge Fund, LLC. Mr. Beal has been recognized as “one of the smartest investors in the country” by Forbes magazine and in 2000, American Banker named Beal Bank the most profitable bank in the USA.

    3. Stephen M. Calk. Calk is the Founder, Chairman and CEO Federal Savings Bank, and National Bancorp Holdings, which is primarily focused on increasing home ownership among veterans of the Armed Forces. He is a commissioned Army Officer and received his M.B.A. from Northwestern University. Under his leadership, the Federal Savings Bank was named the most profitable bank in America in its class by the American Bankers Association Journal….

    [remainder of document can be viewed at link]

    Anybody still want to whine endlessly to the rest of us how the Manafort trial has "nothing to do with" Trump or the Trump campaign? We'll wait. :D

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:


    That flat earther stuff is funny as hell.

    Do the flat earthers think we need a space force?

    Do the flat earthers think at all? If they believe we actually need a space force to govern the vast and infinite universe, you'd think it would at least occur to them somewhere in all that "thinking" that all those other planets and various heavenly bodies are indeed round. :)

  28. [28] 
    Kick wrote:


    Pelosi should retire.

    Perhaps she should for other reasons but certainly not because of the GOP perennial whining about her. Surely you can see through all that, LB.

    If she does, it'll be a way bigger wave, because the Republicans will have lost their biggest Boogie-person*.

    There are an infinite number of women the Greed Over People party can use in her place. Democrats running in districts all across the United States should just ignore their perennial BS about Pelosi and refuse to be baited and stick to the real issues.

    If she stays, sewn to the pincushion, and too many districts go like OH-12 just did, it'll be on her.

    Wrong. There are nearly 70 seats that are more competitive than OH-12, and... mathematically speaking... if they "go like OH-12 just did," about 60-64 of them are going to flip blue, and I don't believe Nancy Pelosi will deserve the credit, LB. The credit will go to those who realize that all politics is local and who refused to take the Pelosi bait and kept talking about the issues that mattered to the constituents in their respective districts from sea to shining sea. :)

  29. [29] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    The Democratic candidate in OH-12 got just about enough votes that if they had gone to the Green Party candidate then the Green Party candidate could have won.

    This is a sentence that is just screaming: "This tool DH actually believes his own ridiculous bullshit!"

    Give it up, Don. When you insist on typing out bullshit like this, you're just conceding you're genuinely full of it. :)

    People cast what Allysa Milano referred to as a protest vote because they want better than the false choice the Democrats are trying to fool them with.

    You mean like if Bernie Sanders became the Democratic nominee and then he lost because people like you had convinced people that Democrats are "trying to fool them" with a "false choice"?

    Do you ever think anything through before you endlessly drone on about it? :)

  30. [30] 
    Kick wrote:


    This! Exactly right, Russ.

    While Pelosi might consider training the next generation of leaders and then handing over the torch for other reasons, the GOP demonization of her shouldn't garner any merit in her decision whatsoever.

    The Greed Over People party is simply throwing out red meat to the misogynists in their pathetic base of predominantly men in their regular exercise of playing white male identity politics... keeping them scared and afraid of women and "others." #SSDD

  31. [31] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    [28] - Surely you can see through all that ... The credit will go to those who realize that all politics is local and who refused to take the Pelosi bait ...

    Kick, when I began posting again a couple of weeks ago, I all but admitted that some of what I would post was trolling. Not all, but some of it is. Think of it as michale Light. I'm comfortable that I can count on you and others to call it out, and don't expect to be given any more leniency than is afforded the Master.

    It's more important than ever that everything is reviewed critically and set aside if it doesn't work in the defense of the rule of law.

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