Now that Democrats have taken the U.S. House of Representatives, they are debating what to do next.
While unified in their dislike of President Trump and his policies, the Democrats disagree on how much emphasis should be put on investigating his administration versus working with Republicans to pass bipartisan pieces of legislation.
While House Minority Leader and leading candidate for Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), talked about healthcare, immigration and finding a way to lower the price of prescription drugs, many of her Democratic colleagues want to focus on Trump.
While Democrats were enthusiastic on Election night, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8), said his priority is on issues, and not necessarily on launching investigations against Trump.
Raskin, who serves on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, said he wants his colleagues to exercise caution when deciding whether to investigate or subpoena records from the Trump administration, saying he does not want his Democratic colleagues in the House to go on any “wild goose chases.”
Raskin said his priorities in the next Congress are passing the Dream Act, to get legal standing for people who immigrated to the U.S. illegally as young children and an infrastructure bill to rebuild ports, roads and airports.
But while Raskin said he is focused on issues that are not a part of the “daily distraction” from the White House, he serves on the two key House committees that would investigate the President, including the Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment process would begin.
“It’s true that Donald Trump continues to drag us down into scandal and spectacle and trivia, and we have to resist it wherever we can,” Raskin said. “But when we can’t resist it, as when he is violating the law or the Constitution, we have to address it.”
The day after the election, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said that he wanted to work with Democrats in a bipartisan way, seeing common ground on a potential infrastructure bill.
The first thing the House Judiciary Committee will investigate is acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. According to the committee’s ranking members, and soon to be chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Whitaker will be the committee’s first witness.
Raskin said that although many of his positions were unpopular with Democrats, the previous Attorney General Jeff Session, who resigned at the request of Trump on Nov. 7, had recused himself from the Russia investigation.
Sessions’ recusal is what likely led to his removal, as Trump took to Twitter to publicly bash his attorney general for recusing himself from overseeing the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Whitaker’s previous statements, criticizing the legitimacy of an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, is worrying Democrats. They are concerned he will help undermine the Mueller probe.
“Mr. Whitaker has expressed open hostility and opposition toward the Mueller probe and must immediately recuse himself from overseeing the investigation,” said Rep. John Sarbanes (D-3). “A Democratic Congress will hold President Trump accountable if he continues to undermine or obstruct the Mueller investigation. No one is above the law.”
For some House Democrats, power will bring with it a conundrum. Much of the Democratic victory on Nov. 6 was driven by a dislike among voters of the Trump administration’s policies, but at the same time, many voters are weary of impeachment talks and would prefer Congress work together in a bipartisan manner.
Like the Democratic Party, Trump took both a conciliatory and aggressive approach to the election results. In a press conference the day after the election, Trump said that he can get “beautiful” bipartisan deals done with Democrats, but also said in a tweet that if the House investigates him, Senate Republicans will use their investigatory powers to retaliate.
“If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!” Trump wrote in a tweet.