Democrats got their blue wave in Tuesday’s midterm election, although if it wasn’t the tsunami they had imagined.
A divided country delivered a divided Congress — returning control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats while retaining a Republican majority in the Senate. Democrats also made gains, though not as large as they had hoped, in statehouses around the country.
Even if it wasn’t the sweep Democrats wanted, the split decision is a sharp rebuke for President Donald Trump, who spent much of the past week rallying Republican voters with more disgraceful scare-mongering about immigrants and socialism. Most voters didn’t fall for it.
With one-party rule coming to an end in Washington, Democrats can serve as a check on the president’s worst impulses. Beginning in January, they will determine what legislation gets considered by the House, and Trump can expect tough scrutiny from House investigative committees as the new Democratic chairmen and chairwomen exercise their power to subpoena records and compel testimony from administration officials.
Expect House panels to look into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any interference with the special counsel’s investigation; the president’s income tax returns and his far-flung business interests; the administration’s myriad ethics scandals and other politically charged subjects. The GOP-led House, which aggressively pursued investigations of President Barack Obama’s administration, has shown little interest in oversight of the Trump White House.
But Trump can continue reshaping the federal courts. With Republicans retaining — and perhaps expanding — their slim Senate majority, he still can count on confirmation of his conservative judicial nominees.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who was re-elected Tuesday, won’t become chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, but both of the North Bay’s House members are in line to chair influential subcommittees in the next Congress.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, who won an 11th House term, is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee’s health panel. Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who was elected to a fourth term, is the top Democrat on the Natural Resource Committee’s water, power and oceans subcommittee.
Big choices lie ahead for both Trump and the new Democratic majority in the House.
Trump has mused recently about reaching across the aisle if Democrats prevailed in the midterm election. “Can we get along? Maybe,” he said last month on “Fox & Friends.” On Tuesday, he called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as the election returns rolled in. But Trump is Trump, and he relishes confrontation. So fighting seems more likely than, say, an infrastructure bill.
Democrats, meanwhile, face a potential leadership fight, with some newly elected members saying they want younger leaders and won’t support Pelosi’s return to the speakership. And some House Democrats — Huffman among them — have called for impeachment.
The Democrats can pick their leaders without our advice, but we think it’s premature to talk about impeaching Trump. Let special counsel Robert Mueller complete his investigation.
In the meantime, there is plenty of work for congressional Democrats — immigration reform, beginning with protection for the Dreamers; upgrading America’s aging infrastructure; enacting responsible climate policies and ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions don’t lose their health insurance, to name just a few subjects that need congressional attention.