What’s top of the Democrats’ to-do list?
Donald Trump could face multiple investigations after Democrats formally take control of Congress
US lawmakers returned to Washington yesterday as the Democrats took control of Congress and a new generation of young, female and left-leaning politicians were sworn in.
The new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, made history as the first person to return to lead Congress in 50 years.
She wasted little time in stamping her authority on the role, immediately proposing legislation to bring the recent government shutdown to an end without releasing funds for President Donald Trump‘s proposed Mexico border wall.
The BBC's David Willis says the legislation would be dead on arrival in the Republican-held Senate, although moves to block any bills “would see the [party] left accountable for the federal hiatus”, says The Independent.
The partial shutdown has now lasted 13 days, affecting some 800,000 government workers.
It marks an ominous sign of things to come for Trump, who has enjoyed a relatively free ride from Congress up until this point but could face a raft of new investigations and subpoenas from the new Democratic-led House of Representatives.
Pelosi hinted at such by saying Trump will face a “different world” with stiffer oversight as Democrats take over the majority.
“He was used to serving with a Republican Congress, House and Senate that was a rubber stamp to him. That won't be the case,” she told USA Today. “Oversight of government by the Congress is our responsibility.”
The US national newspaper says the California Democrat “plans to confront Trump on many fronts, from investigating the deaths of immigrant children in US custody to demanding Trump’s tax returns and protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.”
There are also plans to introduce a package of rule changes in Congress to encourage diversity, USA Today reports, such as allowing religious headscarves to be worn on the House floor, tougher ethics rules and tweaked legislative procedures that will make it easier to raise taxes.
Yet just one day into the new regime there are already areas of disagreement emerging among the Democrats. Despite calls from the left of her party to immediately move to oust Trump, Pelosi said the efforts to serve as a check on the president’s power do not, in the immediate future, extend to impeachment.
With Republicans for now still fairly united behind Trump, trying to reconcile the radical left and centrist wings of her party could prove Pelosi’s most difficult task.
A Detroit Free Press op-ed co-authored by incoming firebrand Democratic Rashida Tlaib, said Congress does not need to wait for the outcome of Mueller's Russia probe “before moving forward now with an inquiry in the US House of Representatives on whether the president has committed impeachable ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ against the state: abuse of power and abuse of the public trust.”
Fearful of alienating swing voters, “moderates, on the other hand, promised to prioritise small businesses, tweak the existing health care system, and work with Republicans and Trump when they can”, says CNN.
What is certain is that with the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination hotting up, both sides will be looking to position one of their own as the candidate who can ultimately beat Trump and reclaim the White House.