ChrisWeigant.com

Setting The Democratic Agenda For The Next Two Years

[ Posted Thursday, November 8th, 2018 – 17:48 PST ]

Democrats are poised to start setting the political agenda in the House of Representatives, beginning in January. This agenda will consist of three different types of actions: investigating the Trump administration, doing legislative deals with Trump where possible, and creating the Democratic Party platform for the 2020 election.

When Democrats take over the House in two months, they will gain all the committee chairmanships. This will mean the concept of oversight will return to Washington, to put it bluntly. The first order of business (if it's not too late, by January) will be to protect the Mueller investigation. This, however, will depend on what happens between now and then, and the situation could radically change, beginning as early as tomorrow (Fridays are the days when the grand jury makes announcements of indictments, and who knows what the new acting attorney general will do?). So we'll have to wait and see how things stand in two months' time, in this regard.

Beyond Mueller, though, President Donald Trump and his administration present what the military likes to call a "target-rich environment" for Democrats to investigate. It's hard to even keep count of the high-ranking Trump officials who have already resigned in disgrace (mostly over corrupt practices), have already been indicted for felonies, or have actually been convicted of felonies and are now awaiting sentencing. And that's before you even get to Trump and his family, who are a target-rich environment all on their own.

The Democratic base will demand that every rock be turned over in this frenzy of investigation. Some are demanding immediate impeachment proceedings, but the House Democrats are far too smart to lead with this. Whether Nancy Pelosi is wielding the speaker's gavel or some other Democrat occupies the big chair, she (or he) will be intelligent enough not to put the cart before the horse. If the investigations uncover indisputable evidence of rampant corruption or other illegalities, Democratic leaders know that there will be plenty of time later for impeachment, if it is warranted. If impeachment has any prayer of success, please remember, a whole lot of Senate Republicans are going to have to be convinced -- and we're not there yet, not by a long shot. Again, though, the Democratic leadership already knows this full well. They'll start with the most obvious place possible -- getting their hands on Trump's tax returns to finally find out what he's been desperately hiding for so long. That's another target-rich environment which begs for public exposure, so it'll likely be the first thing on the Democrats "to do" list, when it comes to investigations.

Legislatively, for the next two years -- if Trump is to have any bill-signing ceremonies at all (which he dearly loves, it bears pointing out) -- the president is going to have to work with either Pelosi or whomever else is leading the House. No longer will Democrats be relegated to the sidelines -- Trump will have to cut deals which include lots of juicy Democratic agenda items, plain and simple. The most obvious area for such deals are the budget bills, which absolutely must pass, periodically.

Both Trump and Pelosi already seem to be signalling a few areas where they might work together. Both have mentioned infrastructure spending and bringing down the price of prescription drugs. Both of these are solid Democratic agenda items (infrastructure used to be a non-partisan agenda item, but not so much anymore since the end of the earmark era). No moral or political compromises will be necessary for Democrats to fully support bills attacking these problems, in other words. Perhaps other agenda items might be agreed to with the White House over the course of the next two years, but it seems likely that these two areas will be where Democrats start negotiating with Trump (with the promise of a big, shiny bill-signing ceremony at the end, for Trump).

But it's the third objective for Democrats that will prove to be the most important, at least politically. House Democrats will set the agenda, looking forward. They will pass bills designed to showcase Democratic priorities while at the same time exposing Republican weaknesses. Whether these bills pass the Senate or not (or, indeed, even get a hearing in the Senate) is almost immaterial. Democrats in the House will be strongly standing up for what they believe in, while pointing out what Republicans are against, with each and every one of these bills. Which will set the stage for the entire 2020 campaign.

The first one out of the gate, if a report today in the Washington Post is accurate, will be a bill protecting people with pre-existing conditions. This is almost a no-brainer (hmm... is not having a brain a pre-existing condition?), seeing as how so many Republican candidates just flat-out lied their faces off about it on the campaign trail for the past few months (up to and including Trump). Here is the Democratic strategy in a nutshell:

House Democrats plan to hold a vote early next year on protecting health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions -- testing GOP commitments to such protections that many Republicans adopted during difficult reelection campaigns.

Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), who will be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee next year, said such a vote should happen immediately upon Democrats assuming control of the House in January.

The vote would be the natural sequel to Democrats' successful midterm strategy of focusing on health care and attacking Republicans relentlessly over their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which included landmark pre-existing-condition protections.

During the campaign, many Republicans insisted they wanted pre-existing conditions protected, a shift Democrats called disingenuous. A vote on the issue would give Republicans a chance to follow through.

"We need a vote on pre-existing conditions right away," Neal said in a post-election interview in his hometown of Springfield, Mass., on Wednesday. "We said that was one of the cornerstones of the ACA. After they saw how badly their position was polling on it, they said they were for it."

In other words, it will be "put up or shut up time" for Republicans. A bill to protect Obamacare's pre-existing conditions mandate will force each and every Republican who swore up and down that they would fight hard for these people to actually vote on a piece of legislation to do just that. They will have a tough choice to make: either vote with the Democrats or be exposed as a big, fat liar.

This will work not only in the House but also in the Senate. In 2020, the Senate map gets a lot friendlier for Democrats, as Republicans will be the ones playing defense. Now, the 2020 map isn't as friendly as it could be, because while Republicans will be defending over 20 seats, most of them are in solid-red states. But there are a few that will be extremely vulnerable. Colorado and Iowa in particular will be big Democratic targets, followed to a lesser degree by Maine, North Carolina, and Arizona. These GOP senators will be faced with the same tough choice, if the measure ever makes it to the Senate floor -- vote with the Democrats, or vote against people with pre-existing conditions being protected, and then get hammered for it on the campaign trail for the next two years.

Putting your political opponents in this sort of bind is the way the game works, especially with a divided Congress. If Mitch McConnell refuses to bring up such bills, then Democrats can pressure him every chance they get and paint him as being an obstructionist on an issue that Republicans actually tried to campaign on, which is a tough place for him to be.

Other issues won't be as cut-and-dried, mostly because Republicans didn't blatantly lie so much about them on the campaign trail this time around. The Affordable Care Act could use shoring up in other areas, in response to the Trump administration undercutting it in the regulatory realm, which could also be a potent place for Democrats to score some political points. Healthcare is obviously still an enormous political issue for the voters, so it might mean Republicans could be forced into supporting Obamacare fixes, with the fear of getting politically hammered on the issue in 2020 hanging over them.

There are plenty of other areas which will be ripe for House Democrats to start laying down political markers as well, although perhaps none quite as potent as the pre-existing conditions one. Progressives are already pushing for a "voter's bill of rights" to be very high on the House's agenda next year. What with all of the shenanigans we see from Republicans on a regular basis in this regard (all the widespread voter suppression efforts in state after state, election year after election year), this is an issue which really demands some sort of concrete action from Democrats. If Republicans balk, either in the House or the Senate, then Democrats can successfully use this issue in the 2020 campaigns -- "How can anyone be against securing the right to vote for every citizen?!?"

The third big issue which will also likely be high on the Democratic House agenda is immigration. As with the pre-existing conditions issue, the smartest thing for Democrats to do here is to start with the most sympathetic part of the problem: introduce a bill to legislatively approve the DACA program (or another "DREAM Act" -- either acronym will work, at this point). Children who came here as undocumented immigrants should be protected and given permanent legal status, as well as a clear path to citizenship. Even Trump used to agree on this, so hopefully this could actually shame other Republicans into acting. Trump's attempt to end DACA just got smacked down by the Ninth Circuit Court again, which means it could be headed for the Supreme Court in the next few months. Democrats could make this case moot by passing legislation authorizing DACA and putting it on Trump's desk, if they act quickly enough. Comprehensive immigration reform is also a possible Democratic agenda item, but they'd be wise to lead with the DACA issue first because it is a lot less complicated.

Whatever the issue, though, Democrats in the House will be driving the Democratic agenda in a way even their presidential candidates won't be able to, for the next two years. Passing bills that are destined to die in the Senate might be seen as a waste of time by some, but it really isn't. With every such bill, Democrats will be laying down a marker: "This is what we are for. This is what we will do if we regain the Senate and the White House." From raising the minimum wage to addressing the high costs of college to revamping tax policy, these issues will be the ones Democrats will be running on in 2020, whether they ever get a vote in the Senate or not. And this frenzy of activity will be seen in stark contrast to Mitch McConnell's Senate, which has not done anything substantive for many years. A frozen-faced McConnell having to explain why he is refusing to even allow votes on very popular legislation passed by the House is going to become a regular occurrence, it is to be hoped. Because nothing will so starkly point out the difference between the proactive and forward-looking Democratic agenda and the absolute lack of any new ideas on the Republican side of the aisle than that.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

29 Comments on “Setting The Democratic Agenda For The Next Two Years”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    the big cake agenda will be the same for the next two years as it's been for the last twenty, unless we take action and reject the two big cake parties BCP's. it might just be the work of one intrepid blogger that brings elections in line with the pies of the people.

    JL

  2. [2] 
    neilm wrote:

    The only thing that could stop the Democrats doing this is their organization skills.

    I'm worried.

  3. [3] 
    neilm wrote:

    I know you are one of the top Democratic pundits, but surely these ideas are being talked about in the upper echelons of the leadership.

  4. [4] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Points well made, CW.

    I think a scrummy place to start would be for the Dem house to introduce Trump's much ballyhooed 10% middle class tax cut...We all know it was demagoguery at its most obvious, but it would feel out the senate and Trump as to their game. I suspect a game of finger-pointing between Trump and the senate will ensue, Trump won't think twice about throwing the GOP run senate under the bus, and I think they know it.

    Played deftly, the Dem house can have the GOP resorting to political cannibalism just before the 2020 showdown. Trump will sell everyone out if it suits him personally... that's the weakness the Dems should exploit. The obstacle thus far has been the media outlets that Trump's base get their reality from, most pro-Trump shops don't mention GOP rifts and strife's unless Trump hands them a scarlet letter (Flake, Corker...etc)

    Divide and conquer might be a well used arrow in Trump's quiver, I'd be interested to see how well a reversal of the tactic would play out. We know how Trump will react, with predictable self-preservation. Will his fellow GOP capitulate to the boss and take on any and all blame for not supporting bi-partisan, sane bills that play to the Democratic mindset?

    Should be an entertaining couple of years.

    LL&P

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @cw,

    also love that you have a link to dave barry's blog. back when i lived in florida i was a big 'herald hunt' enthusiast. now dave's latest entry is about an incoming congressman who writes bigfoot erotica. ha.

    https://blogs.herald.com/dave_barrys_blog/

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Instead of "investigating" the Trump administration, I think it would be helpful to use another word: oversight.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I hope Democrats focus their oversight responsibilities on the target-rich area known as Trump's policies.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What should Democrats do about climate change, legislatively speaking? What policies will they fight for, laying the groundwork for 2020?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why shouldn't Democrats take this opportunity to get serious about solutions to the scourge of gun violence in the greatest - cough, cough - nation on the face of the earth?

    I'll be surprised if Democrats focus on any of these issues and unsurprised by the political consequences that will surely follow.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Passing bills that are destined to die in the Senate might be seen as a waste of time by some, but it really isn't.

    "Absolutely, positively, unequivocally. And, I'm not trying to be facetious, here."

    Let's see how many intelligent bills the Democrats can pass in the House and, at the same time, fashion a Democratic message for 2020 that a large majority of Americans can get excited about.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    America is in desperate need of some - no, a great deal of - tough love from the few true friends and allies it has left.

    And, if Americans can't take the bad medicine, then ...

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @liz,

    agree completely on setting a popular legislative agenda. six straight posts though... an homage to michale?

    JL

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    No, just restless. Do you have a problem with that?

    :-)

  14. [14] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    nope. and speaking of floridians, here we go again in broward...

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    also, in addition to being strong on issues and well-spoken, i think the nominee for 2020 needs to be from the south or midwest. culturally i think coastal types tend not to really connect emotionally with swing voters, and as drew westen says, people vote based on their emotions, not their intellect.

  16. [16] 
    John M wrote:

    4] James T Canuck

    "I think a scrummy place to start would be for the Dem house to introduce Trump's much ballyhooed 10% middle class tax cut..."

    This is not a bad idea. it would completely change the narrative about Democrats for many people. Especially if taxes for the rich and corporations were "tweaked" to support a middle class tax cut and reduce inequality substantially. Trump himself even already said he would not be opposed to something like this.

  17. [17] 
    John M wrote:

    [15] nypoet22

    "also, in addition to being strong on issues and well-spoken, i think the nominee for 2020 needs to be from the south or midwest. culturally i think coastal types tend not to really connect emotionally with swing voters, and as drew westen says, people vote based on their emotions, not their intellect."

    I agree completely. That's one reason why I said yesterday that Democrats would do better with someone like Beto O'Rourke who is from Texas, rather than Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, both of whom are from New England.

  18. [18] 
    Kick wrote:

    JL
    1

    the big cake agenda will be the same for the next two years as it's been for the last twenty, unless we take action and reject the two big cake parties BCP's. it might just be the work of one intrepid blogger that brings elections in line with the pies of the people.

    You make a valid point here that is just screaming for oversight. The big cake agenda is scurrilous to be sure, but I blame Big Sugar for all of this. White Sugar and Brown Sugar... doesn't matter; it's all the same. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they're "exactly the same" or even saying they're the same "in all ways," but White Sugar and Brown Sugar are equally tools.

    So "Use Big Sugar, lose our votes." Now, you may be thinking that this is akin to not voting, but you shouldn't be thinking that at all because "lose our votes" doesn't mean we/us voters are losing our votes, it means the candidates are losing our votes. Got that? So losing our votes… to be sure... means those votes are indubitably lost, but I mean, if those votes are "lost" to the not receiver of them, then it stands to reason that they've got to be "lost" to the not giver of them too; but however, they're still us voting for something... don't ask how... and you'd be wrong to say the "lost" votes we made them lose were "lost votes."

    Hmmmmmmm. Perhaps I didn't think that through. Perhaps I didn't think. Perhaps.

    Never mind!

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:

    I have two words for anyone worried about the Mueller investigation. You may have heard these two words from me before... long, long ago... and even scoffed at the idea, but those two words were and still are: sealed indictments.

    Now I ask you: Who could ever really hope to hide the quote/unquote "Mueller Report" if it's basically written in indictment form? Perhaps indictments that could be unsealed when/if necessary depending on a myriad of circumstances. :)

  20. [20] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Why isn’t “resigning at the request of the president” treated the same as “fired by the president”? They are the same thing except that one allows the president to bypass many of the protections intended for naming acting Cabinet level positions!!

  21. [21] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    [19] I am appalled, Sugar,

    White Sugar and Brown Sugar... doesn't matter; it's all the same. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they're "exactly the same" or even saying they're the same "in all ways," but White Sugar and Brown Sugar are equally tools.

    There's no way to sugarcoat this. That was a truly mealy-mouthed effort to avoid a charge of bias, but suggesting we withhold our votes from an entire class of vegetable reveals your underlying intolerance. Pre-diabetic, perchance?

    Never mind!

    Another swing and a miss at the pinata; that was the icing on your tirade. You might as well have said, "Some people say..." The damage is already done, Ms. Litella, and you have cheapened the tone of discourse on this blog.

    Unbelievable.

  22. [22] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    Actually, [21] was a response to [18]. Must be my sugar fog.

  23. [23] 
    John M wrote:

    [18] Kick

    "You make a valid point here that is just screaming for oversight. The big cake agenda is scurrilous to be sure, but I blame Big Sugar for all of this. White Sugar and Brown Sugar... doesn't matter; it's all the same."

    Personally I blame powdered sugar. Everyone knows it always makes and is responsible for the biggest mess.

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    ah, but the BCP's could use sugar substitute. that might be less calorific but it would still be cake. for me it has to be pie and nothing else.

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    Russ
    20

    Why isn’t “resigning at the request of the president” treated the same as “fired by the president”?

    Because the majority of some of the people in charge of oversight of the Executive Branch are refusing to do their jobs. We should make a plan to vote these "eff suckers" out of office and replace them with people who will actually do their jobs. Oh, wait! ;)

    They are the same thing except that one allows the president to bypass many of the protections intended for naming acting Cabinet level positions!!

    Yes, sir. It is also additional evidence to add to the pile of "obstruction of justice" and quite desperate under the circumstances. :)

  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:

    MyVoice
    21|22

    I am appalled, Sugar,

    As well you should be... and who you calling "Sugar"?

    There's no way to sugarcoat this.

    Wrong, you... you obfuscator! It's already sugarcoated and dripping in Big Sugar... "BS" for short... and furthermore, don't think for one second that everyone doesn't see right straight through your efforts to avoid the entire BS issue by talking about sugar! Your refusal to perform your responsibility to address this BS is reprehensible and downright abdication... for shame! ;)

    Another swing and a miss at the pinata; that was the icing on your tirade.

    No, sir... for it is a Trump piñata... primarily colored bright orange, and it is dripping in BS and just full of it.

    The damage is already done, Ms. Litella, and you have cheapened the tone of discourse on this blog.

    That's Ms. Nutella, to you, sir, and everyone knows talk is cheap... and repetitive talk saying the same BS over and over is the cheapest of all. ;)

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    John M
    23

    Personally I blame powdered sugar. Everyone knows it always makes and is responsible for the biggest mess.

    Yes, sir. While it may act all refined and put on airs, it is the worst kind of Big Sugar. ;)

  28. [28] 
    Kick wrote:

    JL
    24

    ah, but the BCP's could use sugar substitute. that might be less calorific but it would still be cake. for me it has to be pie and nothing else.

    Obfuscator!

  29. [29] 
    MyVoice wrote:

    [26] Right-o, Ms. Nutella,

    What a charming display of umbrage to turn the subject from your indefensible sugar intolerance. BS, indeed.

    That said, I think your piñata work is stunning on all levels. You continue to be an inspiration.

    ... and who you calling "sir?"

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