I think more were disappointed than surprised last night when the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives. As it stands right now, it looks like the Democrats will have a 227-208 advantage in the House of Representatives. Make no mistake about it, this is a setback, but it was neither unexpected (average mid-term House losses to the president’s party is 30 seats) nor will it usher in a progressive Age of Aquarius. It will cause pain to the administration as formerly allied House Committees now become foes and subpoenas start being tossed at administration officials and staff. Despite breathless reports in this morning’s Politico email:
The takeover puts Democrats in a prime position to launch tough oversight and challenge the administration on a slew of defense policies. And it gives Democrats substantial leverage in budget negotiations to demand any further hikes in defense spending be matched by money for Democratic domestic priorities.
Actually, this is bullsh**. Without a united front with the Senate, the very best the House can do in the way of influencing spending is lock in two years of current spending as continuing resolutions rather than budgets become the norm again. It is difficult to imagine any budget that can pass Nancy Pelosi’s House surviving the Senate or a veto. And, from media reports, the House leadership has been contemplating the possibility of losing control and making contingency plans. The Democrats can really expect to spend the next two years locked in partisan trench warfare with a House GOP that will be heavily influenced by hardline conservatives and any progress they can make will be more accidental and marginal than substantive.
In fact, there will be exactly one issue the new Democrat majority can influence, and that is whether it decides to impeach President Trump…or, more accurately, can the House NOT impeach Trump?
To a certain degree, the impeachment of President Trump has become for progressive Democrats what repealing ObamaCare was for the Tea Party movement in 2010. There is a great deal of anger that was harnessed in order to gain control of the House. Like ObamaCare and abortion on the GOP side, impeachment is much more useful as an exercise of Failure Theater and a fundraising tool and issue to motivate the base than it is as an actual policy objective. More than half of Pelosi’s new 17-seat majority are accidental winners, like Ben McAdams who seems to have defeated Mia Love in Utah-4, can’t afford to follow a far-left, hard-Democrat line and be re-elected in 2020.
And therein is the hard decision point for Pelosi. Does she whip the vote and pass articles of impeachment based on a narrow party-line vote in order to curry favor with the progressive base and see the articles laughed at by Mitch McConnell and used as a club against the Democrats in 2020? Or does she play progressives with the “you need to give us a bigger majority PLUS the Senate” line (we’ve heard that, haven’t we?) and do nothing?
My bet is that the House Judiciary Committee launches a series of show trials…I’m sorry, I mean high profile hearings on Trump’s business activities (get ready to become an expert on the Emoluments Clause) to give the illusion of doing something about impeaching Trump while, in reality, doing nothing at all.