A large part of what Congress does takes place at the committee level. The majority party in each of the two chambers – Senate and House of Representatives – controls those committees through party members holding the respective committee chairs. When the 116th Congress convenes at the beginning of 2019, the Democratic Party will assume control of the committees in the House of Representatives and, through those committees, will influence and guide most of what goes on in the House. This has enormous implications for not only the legislative agenda but for how successful President Donald Trump will be in pursuing his agenda over the next two years.
A look at who is likely to chair the various committees reveals what Democrats can and will do to affect America’s political and economic future until the next election in November 2020. Specifically, all spending bills originate in the House, meaning the Democratic Party now, effectively, controls the federal government’s purse strings.
No Wall? Blame Democrats
The House of Representatives divides its areas of purview between 20 committees, with most of those having numerous sub-committees. While the majority party holds the committee chair, the opposition party’s most senior member on the committee is known as the ranking member and, in most cases, it is the current ranking Democrat on each committee who will take over as chairman in the new Congress.
Whether one loves, hates or harbors mere indifference toward this president, there can be little argument that Trump has lived up to the slogan “promises made, promises kept” more than any other president, perhaps, in living memory. Yet, two major Trump campaign promises remain largely unrealized: The repeal of Obamacare and the building of a border wall. Trump loyalists, of course, will argue that Obamacare was dealt a fatal blow with the removal of the “individual mandate” as part of the 2017 tax reform bill and that sections of new border wall are under construction.
… he can point to the Democrats’ refusal to fund it.
Efforts to secure the funding to complete the wall, however, may have hit a wall themselves. Nita Lowey (D-NY) is the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, which is largely responsible for the allocation of funds for federal government departments, agencies, and spending. A strong defender of funding for Planned Parenthood, Lowey has made it clear that the border wall is not on the new agenda. “We are not funding Trump’s border wall,” she said recently, “We will invest in other programs that will make us safer.”
Lowey may be doing Trump a favor, though. In 2020, if the president must explain to his base why the wall didn’t get built, he can point to the Democrats’ refusal to fund it.
The Armed Services Committee will likely operate under the chairmanship of Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), a progressive who is no friend of the Pentagon and wants more oversight of the Trump administration and Department of Defense. Smith appears to believe that American military personnel deployed on overseas operations should be more concerned with their impact on the environment than defeating the enemy or completing the mission and he adamantly opposes funding for the nation’s nuclear defenses.
California Democrat Maxine Waters will chair the Financial Services Committee and will, no doubt, use that position to exercise her extreme animosity toward the entire banking and financial services industries. In addition, Waters is the most outspoken proponent of the impeachment of the president, and she will undoubtedly attempt to use the committee’s power to pursue investigations into Trump’s personal business dealings.
As the special counsel investigation into alleged Russian collusion seems to be approaching a wind-down, two powerful House committees, under Democrats, will most certainly take the baton from Robert Mueller and try to keep the collusion myth alive until the next election. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will lead the Judiciary Committee, and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) will almost certainly chair the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Both men want nothing more than to destroy Donald Trump the man, as well as Donald Trump the president.
The immediate future looks bleak for Americans who may have been hoping that the 116th Congress would put forward a positive legislative agenda. For those whose greatest desire is to see the end of Trump’s presidency, the next two years will bring much false hope. While the opposition party seems determined to legislate the Trump agenda out of existence without any constructive alternatives, the bulk of its time and energy may well go towards the hunt for crimes, real or imagined, committed by the president, his cabinet and his family members. If the Justice Kavanaugh affair is any indication, though, the Democrats may – in their zeal to bring down Trump – set themselves up for a bloodbath in 2020.