Eight years after losing their majority in the House of Representatives, and two years after losing the White House, the Democrats are once again firmly in control of the House. What will they do with that power?
As expected, Speaker Nancy Pelosi overcame the opponents to her leadership. She now faces the challenge of focusing the disparate voices and conflicting inter-party agendas of the majority caucus on the important work ahead. She also needs to address the delicate question of setting the right tone for ruling party behavior in the House. Tough, smart and disciplined, Pelosi will undoubtedly do her best to maintain party control, but given the current toxic political climate and uncompromising moral certainty of the contending voices in her party, Pelosi faces a significant challenge.
Both before her ascension to speaker and in the short time since, Pelosi has shown herself to be a determined foil to the president. She has projected calm and clarity of focus in contrast to the president’s mercurial behavior and unpredictable policy pronouncements. But can she get the job done?
Pelosi’s first challenge, of course, is the government shutdown and its crippling effect on government operations, severe financial impact on an increasing number of government worker victims and the debilitating effect of our national dysfunction on our country’s image. And that’s all separate from the political and financial implications of the Trump border wall dispute.
When the president said he would be proud to hold the country hostage by shutting down the government over not getting his way on the border wall, Pelosi demurred, and refused to support border wall funding. The president called her bluff, and the shutdown ensued. Since then, Pelosi and fellow Democrats (and an increasing number of Republicans) have been working to reopen the government.
But even as Pelosi has been working on the shutdown issue, some in the Democratic caucus are already brandishing articles of impeachment, seemingly hungry for the spectacle of embarrassing the president, distracting him from the affairs of government and otherwise frustrating his agenda during the remaining two years of his term. Pelosi, however, counsels restraint. She wisely wants to wait for the completion of the Mueller investigation to see if there is anything worth pursuing and to determine whether there is bipartisan support for further action. That approach makes sense.
In the meantime, Congress has ongoing oversight responsibilities, and we urge the Democratic majority to focus on the party’s bread and butter issues: addressing health care, common-sense gun legislation, infrastructure, voting rights and immigration reform.
Pelosi has said that she wants to work with the president, not against him. That’s all good. But given the political gridlock in Washington, how can she get that done? According to columnist Michael Warren, there are three ways to influence the president: Convince him that he’ll be loved, remind him of his campaign promises and communicate with him indirectly. We look forward to seeing Pelosi on “Fox and Friends.”