WASHINGTON – Now that they’ve taken over the House, Democrats will try to follow a party blueprint for action that envisions protecting health care, Medicare and Medicaid, funding improvements to the country’s infrastructure, and creating more jobs.
And the likely speaker of the new House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said Tuesday night that her party would be imposing “checks and balances” on President Donald Trump and his administration.
“Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” Pelosi told supporters.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said the voters had given the Democrats “a mandate – to conduct credible, independent, robust, and responsible oversight of the Trump administration.”
“I also want to focus on uplifting the American people and improving their day-to-day lives, from lowering prescription drug prices to ensuring access to affordable and quality healthcare to expanding funding for the opioid epidemic,” the congressman said in a statement.
Whatever the House Democrats want to do, of course, will require some kind of accommodation with the Republican-controlled Senate.
Outlined as part of “The Better Deal,” a package of legislative policies released by the House Democrats in 2017, their new majority also is likely to press for bills aimed at providing cheaper energy prices.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, is expected to become House majority leader. He said that in addition to health care and jobs, he wanted to protect “fair pay and benefits for our hardworking federal employees” and ensure that “our military installations have the resources they need to continue serving our nation.”
“While we’ve taken great strides to improve the lives of Marylanders, there is still much work to be done,” Hoyer said in a statement after the election.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington told Capital News Service before Tuesday’s balloting that he wished improving roads and mass transit had been lawmakers’ primary objective last year rather than the GOP focusing on “destroying the Affordable Care Act.”
“I wish we had used all of the same legislative and political energy on building common ground for an infrastructure proposal we can all get behind,” he said.
The Democrats’ plan would spend $1 trillion on schools, port and inland waterways, airports and railways. That would include $30 billion in construction projects to meet public demand; $100 billion to meet passenger and cargo growth in airports; and $107 billion to improve physical and digital infrastructure in schools.
Funding for this proposal would come in part by rolling back portions of the Republican tax bill passed last year.
But Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Timonium, believes the tax cut was misdirected and instead should have provided relief to the middle class.
“That will be one of the highest priorities for the Democrats…,” Ruppersberger said in an interview before the election. “The economy isn’t doing bad, but eventually with (Trump’s) tax cuts…we’re going to start hurting.”
Although passing comprehensive gun safety laws is not part of the Democrats’ formal blueprint, it remains high on the party’s agenda. Calls for a fundamental shift in gun safety have increased in the past year, while thousands of students staged walkouts across the country and protested in Washington in March.
Raskin said the first step in addressing these potential changes should be creation of a “common ground, common sense” agenda.
“We need to close the gun show loophole, close the internet loophole, close the 7-Eleven parking lot loophole,” Raskin said. “We need to make sure that all firearms are obtained through licensed firearm dealers and that there is a thorough background check on all buyers.”
Ruppersberger said the party’s primary focus in on semiautomatic weapons. That concern was heightened after the mass shooting in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead and six injured.
Authorities said the shooter used an AR-15 rifle and three handguns during the attack. It was later confirmed that all the firearms were legally owned by the shooter.
“We’ve had too many people killed by people…who have access to high-speed weapons,” Ruppersberger said one day before the shooting occurred. “Gun safety will always be on the table.”
Putting more pressure on the Trump administration is also on the party’s agenda, but many Democrats insist that any action taken against against Trump hangs on the results of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation.
“If Mueller…has facts that Trump or anybody else interfered with our election, laundering money, all these things that are against our laws…we need to deal with it,” Ruppersberger said. “But we should not move forward unless we have the facts.”
Even so, Cummings signaled that he is likely to begin some probes as soon as he assumes the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in January, as appears likely.
“I have seen oversight work well, and I have seen it work poorly,” he said. “For the past two years, it has been virtually nonexistent.”
“Meanwhile, President Trump has been eroding the foundations of our democracy. He has been degrading the vision of our Founding Fathers – from attacking the right to vote to undermining the freedom of the press,” Cummings said. “Yesterday, the American people voted to change that. They voted for transparency and accountability.”