What To Expect From The 116th Congress:
John Michael Gomez
Note: At the time of this writing, the complete results of the 2018 Midterms are still unavailable but the general results, Republican gains in the Senate and a Democratic flip of the House of Representatives, are clear.
“Elections have consequences”.
Considering the abnormally high voter turnout in the 2018 Midterm Elections, voters seemed to clearly understand this point. After the occasionally hyperbolic and bombastic rhetoric of this election cycle, the focus of the nation is shifting to expectations for the incoming Congress. While expecting the unexpected has become the rule, not the exception, for politics in the last few years there are at least few things that the nation can expect from the Republican Senate and Democrat House.
Criminal Justice Reform
On November 14th, President Trump announced his support for a bipartisan criminal justice reform. The bill, titled the First Step Act, is touted as a major overhaul of the criminal justice system. Pundits and politicians on both sides have long called for an update of the American criminal justice system. A great deal of work on criminal justice reform has quietly been taking place over the last two years with Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West both taking trips to the White House to lobby the President. The proposal, which has already passed the House, is currently stalled in the Senate. If the bill does not pass the Senate before the end of this session of Congress, it is very likely to be reintroduced in the next session of Congress. The passage of this bill would offer a rare moment of bipartisan agreement on a major issue in Washington.
Plenty of Judges
Unfortunately, criminal justice reform may end up being one of the few areas which Republicans and Democrats come to an agreement on in D.C over the next two years. The confirmation of federal judges by the Republican held Senate has been one of the biggest achievements of the Trump presidency, and with an expanded count in the Senate, expect Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to push more judges through. Democrats will obviously object and attempt to stall the confirmations but will likely not find a great deal of success in defeating them. With the expanded number of Republicans in the Senate, moderate Republican Senators such as Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will see their power dwindle from the previous session of the Senate.
Now that Democrats have control of the House of Representatives, they have the power to launch investigations and issue subpoenas. Listening to Democrats, they clearly intend to use that power. Expect numerous investigations of the Trump Administration and members of the President’s Cabinet from the Democrat-controlled House Judiciary Committee.
Auditions for 2020 Democratic Nomination
Now that the 2020 Election is coming up, expect to see a great deal of dramatic political stunts from potential contenders for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2020. Look to Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kamala Harris (CA), Sherrod Brown (OH), and Corey Booker (NJ) to have some dramatic moments that give them national attention. All four are considered likely to run for the Democratic nomination to take on President Trump in 2020 and have an incentive to build up a national profile for themselves especially when they know there is little chance for legislative wins. Despite the national hope that the Senate works together to solve national issues, as the saying goes, you can’t take the politics out of politics.
While the topic of impeachment will be floated by Democrats in the House of Representatives, it remains unlikely that the President will be impeached. Too many new Democratic Representatives are from close districts that can easily flip back to Republican control if they decide to take the radical move of impeaching the President without a clear crime or reason. The factor which would change all of this, of course, is the outcome of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. If the Special Counsel’s investigation turns up damning allegation against the President, one can reasonably expect Democrats to try to impeach the President. They would face a very uphill battle in the Senate and as we saw with the impeach of President Clinton, voters may not react in the way that Democrats expect.
These predictions, of course, are based on things we know now. As I stated in the introduction, in this day and age, we have to expect the unexpected. It is quite possible that there is a whole new set of issues which present themselves to this new Congress. It’s possible that Congress is tasked with approving a peace treaty with North Korea, must confirm a new Supreme Court Justice, or must deal with a new crisis. What we do know for sure is that the next two years will be quite the spectacle and highly consequential.